Headlines: June 6th, 2006

The Government is to try out the idea of ensuring that people who are evicted as a result of anti-social behaviour undertake rehabilitation. Those that do not co-operate will face reductions in their housing benefit or the loss of the payment. The proposed pilot schemes are part of the Respect programme and will need new legislation, which the Department of Work and Pensions is to pursue as soon as practicable.John Hutton, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said the measure was not about changing the eviction process but about getting people to change their behaviour. It will be used only in cases where a person refuses to address their behaviour using the support and help that are offered to them. The overall aim, he said, was to bring about a culture of self-respect and respect for others and the community.

“Communities are fed up of the disruption caused by people who show no respect for their neighbours. The threat of sanctioning housing benefit will send a clear signal to the handful of people evicted each year for anti-social behaviour that they must address their problem behaviour and engage in rehabilitation,” said Mr. Hutton.

He did not believe it was that someone who was evicted should be able to move to another area and continue behaving badly. Such people had to realise they had reached the end of the line. “The right to Housing Benefit must and will carry a responsibility to be a decent neighbour,” he added.

The DWP has written to key stakeholders to seek views on the implementation of pilots but the plan is for these to start in 2008 in about 10 local authority areas. Under the proposal people will be offered help to rehabilitate through existing services. If they refuse they will be issued with a warning notice by their local council and only if this is ignored will the benefit cuts come into force. The sanction will increase incrementally with a 10 per cent loss of benefit for four weeks, 20 per cent for a further 4 weeks and then a total removal for up to 5 years for those who still refuse to co-operate. Lower rates of reductions will apply to those in hardship and there will be a right to appeal. An offer of support can be accepted at any stage in this process, at which point the benefit payment would be reinstated.