Headlines: March 24th, 2004

A new scheme has been launched to help key public sector workers to buy homes to help recruit staff and retain their skills in fields including teaching, the National Health Service and the police and fire services. The 690 million pound ‘Key Worker Living’ programme is designed to build on the success of an earlier initiative and has been welcomed by the biggest public sector union – UNISON.The new scheme has been announced by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, with support from the Education and Health Secretaries, Charles Clarke and John Reid. It follows the success of the Starter Home Initiative, which is expected to help more than 9,000 key workers into home ownership by the end of this month with a further 1200 expected to complete purchases in the early part of the new financial year.

Key Worker Living offers eligible public service workers four options, including home ownership packages and intermediate rental solutions. It will be marketed by one-stop-shops located in London, the South East and the East of England, where house prices are highest and the problem of staff recruitment and retention is at its most difficult. Eligibility varies across the regions depending on local priorities.

Those eligible for help include nurses and other clinical staff in the NHS, teachers in schools and sixth form colleges and in further education. Others who can benefit are police officers, and those working in the prison and probation services. In addition the scheme could help social workers and some other local government staff in London and some fire fighters.

Key workers can get more information from the ODPM website or from helplines being set up in each area. Their options are equity loans of up to 50,000 towards the cost of a home, a higher level for some London school teachers who are leaders in their field, shared ownership or intermediate renting at subsidised rates.

UNISON said the programme was a much-needed incentive to retain key public sector workers in property hot spots.