Home means different things to different people and that’s something that Scottish Housing Day rightly celebrates.
But it should mean one thing to all of us: the security that we have somewhere we can afford to call home.
Too many people, stung by the UK Government’s damaging welfare reforms, have lacked this security and over the past few years we have worked hard to lessen the impact of those reforms.
On top of our work to fully mitigate the Bedroom Tax our Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) has provided everyday items like food or nappies in times of crisis to more than a quarter of a million households, a third of which include children.
Following the changes introduced to remove housing support to young people aged 18-21 from 1 April 2017, we have extended the SWF on an interim basis, to ensure young people can still receive assistance with their housing costs and prevent homelessness and while we will work out a more permanent way of delivering on our commitment that 18-21 year olds should retain housing support.
We know that our young people, along with women and disabled people, will be disproportionately affected by welfare cuts. That’s why we are ensuring that new social security powers being transferred to Holyrood will help us tackle inequalities and create a social security system based on dignity, fairness and respect.
It’s why we’re using our limited devolved powers to develop a flexible approach to Universal Credit and it’s why from next year, our new social security powers will enable us to cancel out the Bedroom Tax for more than 70,000 households.
We’re also taking responsibility for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs), which are paid to housing benefit recipients who need additional help to meet their rent payments. These are paid at the discretion of the claimant’s local authority.
But we need to look at the affordability of all housing costs – not just rent. There are too many people in fuel poverty and in this area we want to do more. We’re introducing a Warm Homes Bill next year to help tackle fuel poverty and will be consulting on a new fuel poverty strategy that will feed into this. We already have a range of schemes in place to support those who struggle to keep their home warm. This year alone we’re making £114 million available to help install energy efficiency measures, including solid wall insulation, building on the million measures delivered through a range of programmes to over a million households since 2008.
Scottish Housing Day is a chance to promote housing in Scotland across all tenures. Let’s work together to make sure everyone can benefit.
Jeane Freeman, Minister for Social Security