Having problems paying the punitive bedroom tax and live in Lambeth? Work for them for free for 3 months and all will be solved. Lambeth sent out a series of letters last year under the heading of ‘Get set Go’. The letters announced:
‘an exciting opportunity in a scheme run by the Welfare Solutions and Estate Pride Team’
Lucky recipients were asked to choose from three different ‘volunteer opportunities’
Option one was Resident Surveys: basically tramping about in all weathers asking people on ‘selected estates’ what they think of particular community issues-This happens in pairs, presumably so they can protect one another from all the different kinds of vitriol ‘the community’ might have about the lack of services via cuts and the inflated salaries of Lambeth council directors. But hey, Lambeth are convinced that by doing the work of their paid employees for nothing, you can gain great skills. The letter gushes that such skills include:
‘dealing with the public in a customer service role, capturing information and gain[ing] insight into community engagement’
If you don’t fancy that, there’s
Option two: Estate inspections: This is about delivering services (stop laughing) and involves being mentored by trained (presumably paid, but who knows anymore) Lambeth council staff. On this one, the new found skills include
‘reporting, writing repair requests’
and a possibly illuminating combination of
‘understanding how the housing sector works and problem solving’
Last but not least is doing a bit of gardening for Lambeths ‘less able residents’. In three months this clearing of weeds/gardening apparently provides a number of wonderments including:
‘gaining horticultural/maintenance, creative and project management experience’.
They leave out getting the odd cup of tea, maybe they just couldn’t agree on any specifically ridiculous wording for potential quasi-skill set, for example: to professional tea taster or to the development of professional tea buyer which would include exciting travel opportunities to pick the best leaves for brand name teas, gaining exceptional skills in quality control and financial exploitation for a multinational corporate body.
In addition to all this there’s the obligatory CV writing workshops, interview techniques etc. But also the completely stunning and baffling:
‘customer service functional Maths & English and IT skills training’
(and yes, I can see several errors and oddities in that line too, but never mind)
In return for this bewildering array of nonsense -your bedroom tax gets erased for 3 months:
‘You will receive financial support to assist with the effect of the social sector size criteria (bedroom tax) through monthly rent adjustments to cover your shortfall for the 3 month duration’
So if it’s possible to give monthly rent adjustments to cover shortfalls: why can’t they just do that for everyone?
Why do people need to work for 3 months on Lambeth’s bizarre version of local workfare? And of equal importance -are Lambeth in breach of the Equality Act? Even if a disabled person wanted to take part in this sham none of the options seem particularly accessible. Lambeth announced in 2014 that they would tackle the issue of bedroom tax with what they called a ‘work first’ approach.
The DWP’s own 2015 report said that three quarters of those effected by the bedroom tax were going without food and/or heat while just 1 in 9 of those affected had been able to move home to a smaller property. We know it’s much more difficult for disabled people to move home due to completed adaptations to their homes and local family and friends networks.
We also know that those in receipt of housing benefit are increasingly those in work on low pay and in insecure work, which is compounded by the increases in the cost of living. Another fact that seems to have escaped Lambeth:
‘A “work first” approach will be taken that will encourage these households to avoid the bedroom tax altogether by getting into work’2
Surely, the only correct thing to do is to scrap this punitive tax that persecutes those with the least- Lambeth council show they can do it for 3 months-or to work at local levels to alleviate the inhuman impacts of bedroom tax on local individuals, families and children?
No, Lambeth chose to devise ‘work first’ workfare schemes to add further persecution and provide them with labour at the equivalent of a x pounds a week , reducing their own employment costs, driving down wages, and denying real paid jobs in the process.
If anyone thinks that this is a useful initiative, think again: how long before this turns to 30 or 40 hours per week, how long before dwindling ‘services’ need to be exchanged for work in a ‘work first’ local agenda? What happens to those who can’t work because of chronic ill health, or impairment, and those that need additional support?
Lambeth are setting a dangerous local precedent
Let us know if your council has a similar scheme at firstname.lastname@example.org
See here for useful information on discretionary housing payments
 Bedroom tax is applied to those in social housing where the amount of net rent covered by housing benefit is reduced by 14% for one spare bedroom and 25% if you have two or more bedrooms. Housing benefit is paid to those in work and out of work. The bedroom tax does not apply to those in so called private housing. http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/housing_benefit_and_local_housing_allowance/changes_to_housing_benefit/bedroom_tax
 ‘A “work first” approach will be taken that will encourage these households to avoid the bedroom tax altogether by getting into work’ p.3 2014 http://moderngov.lambeth.gov.uk/documents/s71133/For%20info%20A%20Welfare%20Reform%20Report.pdf
Get set go promo leaflet http://www.roupellpark.co.uk/sites/default/files/Lambeth%20Get%20Set%20Go%20poster.pdf –