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PRIVATE RENTING SOLUTIONS FOR HOMELESS AND VULNERABLE PEOPLE

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Newbury MP, Richard Benyon, yesterday led a debate in Westminster Hall on private renting solutions for homeless and vulnerable people.

In his speech Richard said: “The private rented sector is an increasingly important route out of homelessness. When renting works for homeless people, it can be life changing. It is often a huge step towards finding a job, reconnecting with family and rebuilding lives.”

The serious problem in housing supply was highlighted in the Government’s Housing White Paper on Tuesday which also outlined changes that would make the private rented sector more affordable and more secure. But Richard said that additional support was needed if private renting was to work for the homeless and vulnerable.

He praised the work of Crisis, the homelessness charity, in this field and outlined two potential solutions. The Help to Rent scheme matches tenants with landlords and provides financial guarantees for deposits and rent, with ongoing support for both parties. Landlords have the reassurance of a named point of contact if something goes wrong and tenants receive support including help with budgeting and getting and maintaining employment. The 8,000 tenancies set up under this scheme in recent years, saw a sustainment rate of 90% which represents an incredible achievement.

Crisis is also calling on the Government to establish a national rent deposit guarantee scheme. This would provide help-to-rent projects with greater financial security with landlords safe in the knowledge that their property is protected, and free up help-to-rent schemes to support tenants, working in a similar way to the Help to Buy scheme for those who are just about managing and for whom purchasing a home is just not realistic.

Richard also highlighted the issues around mental health and vulnerable people. He said: “Mental health problems can cause homelessness and homelessness can cause mental health problems. In this place we think of things only in silos. We have a very good Minister here from one Department, but if we really are to deal with this problem we ought to have a whole range of Ministers from the Department of Health, the Ministry of Defence and Education plus people from all the organisations who care for people … so that we can do so in in a much more cohesive way.”

Richard closed by saying: “I am pleased that the Prime Minister has made housing a priority in her wish to lead a Government that helps those people left behind who have not benefited from recent economic growth.”

Marcus Jones, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government, responded to the debate.

He confirmed that the Government had made a significant investment of £14 million working with Crisis to develop a programme for single people to access private rented accommodation. He agreed with Richard that there should be a line of Ministers to respond to the issues, saying, “In that spirit, I chair a ministerial working group that brings together various Departments and Ministers to see what more we can do to deal with the underlying issues that relate to homelessness. “

“We have also set up aprivate rented sector affordability and security working group. On that working group, we have Shelter, Crisis, Generation Rent and landlord and letting agent representatives, and it is in the process of finalising its report. We have asked those organisations to work with us to see how we can reduce the costs and barriers people face in accessing private rented accommodation.”

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RICHARD’S ARTICLE ON POLITICSHOME ON PRIVATE RENTING SOLUTIONS FOR HOMELESS AND VULNERABLE PEOPLE

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The Private Rented Sector is an increasingly important route out of homelessness. When renting works for homeless people it can be life changing - it’s often a huge step towards finding a job, reconnecting with family and rebuilding lives.

Yet finding a home in the PRS can be difficult and we all know, despite the welcome move from the Government to ban letting agent fees, upfront costs often act as a barrier for many people.

Research shows when renting to homeless people, 16% of landlords reported increasing the deposit, 12% increased the rent required in advance, and 15% increased the contractual rent. 55% of landlords say they are unwilling to let to tenants in receipt of housing benefitand the number unwilling to rent to homeless people is even higher at 82%.

However, I believe there are ways to make the PRS work for this group and there are innovative solutions now being delivered by which homeless and vulnerable people are being helped and guided into the market and most importantly, being given the tools and support needed to sustain lengthy tenancies.

From 2010 to 2014, with funding from the DCLG, the homeless charity Crisis ran the ‘Private Rented Sector Access Programme’. This funded specific Help to Rent schemes across the country which enabled homeless and vulnerable people access affordable and secure accommodation in the PRS.

It matched tenants with landlords, providing financial guarantees for deposits and rent, with ongoing support for both parties, including help for the tenant in budgeting and in gaining and sustaining employment. During the programme, more than 8,000 tenancies were created with a 90% sustainment rate which is an incredible achievement for this particular group.

As well as calling for funding for these Help to Rent schemes, Crisis is also proposing a Government funded National Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme. This would provide Help to Rent projects with greater financial security, with landlords safe in the knowledge their property is protected and that the help-to-rent projects are providing the right support to help tenants maintain rent. There is already a national mortgage guarantee which helps struggling first-time buyers with the cost of a deposit and this would be a similar scheme for those who are just about managing and for whom purchasing a home is just not realistic.

Both the Residential Landlords Association and the National Landlords Association believe that with the right support in place, financial risks can be reduced and letting to this group can be a viable business model. We can and should be actively encouraging landlords to work with these schemes.

The rationale to Government is that these policies are cost-effective and will provide stability in the private rented sector for the most vulnerable, helping to prevent and tackle homelessness. Independent analysis commissioned by Crisis estimates that if access were available to all households approaching their local authority for homelessness assistance, some 32,000 people could receive support annually. Assuming that if 60% of people leave temporary accommodation as a result of the scheme being available, savings from one year of the scheme would amount to between £175-595 million. Investing in PRS access support fits with Government’s wider agenda on Universal Credit and homelessness prevention and would build on the recent announcement for Homelessness Prevention Trailblazers and the PM’s welcome commitment to put prevention at the heart of a new approach.

By changing perceptions, we can make a private rented sector that works for all.

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RICHARD BENYON WELCOMES NEW MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT FOR LOCAL SCHOOLS IN NEWBURY

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Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury, has welcomed new measures to transform the approach to mental health in West Berkshire so that more children and young people receive support and care.

Every secondary school in this area will be offered mental health first aid training to increase awareness and help to tackle the unacceptable stigma around the issue. To support this initiative, new proposals will outline how mental health services for schools, universities and families can be improved, so that everyone in the community is supported, at every stage of life. There will also be a review of children and adolescent mental health services in West Berkshire which will help to identify what is already working and what can be improved, so more children and young people get the mental healthcare they need and deserve.

These proposals are part of a wide range of measures to improve mental health care across the board, including improved support in the workplace, and increased help in the community, so that everyone can access the best support for their needs. More online services will be provided and the system will be made fairer for people suffering from mental health problems.

Richard Benyon commented:

“For too long there hasn’t been enough focus on mental healthcare in this country. I am aware of the problems faced by people in West Berkshire suffering from mental ill health and I am helping launch Brighter Berkshire 2017 next week which is a community-led initiative to address this issue across the county. I am delighted that the Government is prioritising the need for change. Bringing this out into the open, challenging the stigma that still surrounds it and dealing with the injustices that people with mental health problems face will help to ensure that we live in a country where everyone gets the support they need. Improving mental healthcare in our schools, workplaces and universities is a vital first step and these new proposals will mean that children and young people in West Berkshire will receive the compassion, care and treatment they deserve.“

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HAVE YOUR SAY ON WHAT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY SUBJECTS MPS SHOULD HEAR ABOUT

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The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has created an open opportunity for the science community, schools, colleges, and the wider public to suggest science and technology areas for scrutiny.

The cross-party committee MPs exists to examine government policy on science and technology issues, and wants to gather suggestions for topics for its next inquiry.

Newbury MP Richard Benyon said:

“This is a great opportunity to get involved with setting the science and technology agenda in Westminster. If there’s an area of science that you think isn’t getting the attention it deserves or where the Government needs to do better, then this is an easy way to let politicians know about it. I would be delighted if the people of Newbury where to take part in telling MPs about important science issues.

Chair of the Committee Stephen Metcalfe MP said:

“My committee is looking forward to learning about areas of science that we might not otherwise consider. We’ve held inquiries into many fascinating topics recently and have more planned for 2017—but we want to hear your ideas too. I’m keen to open up this part of the process and get fresh input. We’re encouraging scientists and the wider public to get involved by sending us 200 words or a 1-minute video. I am particularly keen to hear ideas from schools and colleges.”

The Committee is asking for suggestions either in the form of a written submission via its website or a short video tweeted with the #MyScienceInquiry hashtag. A selection of the proposals will be shortlisted for an opportunity to give a 10-minute pitch to the Committee in person at a public 'Dragons' Den'-style session to be held in the New Year.

Proposals should outline in less than 200 words the nature of the issue that the Committee should explore, why it deserves attention, and how Government policy in this area could be developed or improved.

Recently the Committee has looked at topics ranging from anti-microbial resistance to science communication, and will shortly begin work on gene editing and ocean acidification. In 2016 it has also published reports on the impact and implications of Brexit for science, the science budget, and digital skills.

Written suggestions can be submitted online via www.parliament.uk/myscienceinquiry or by tweeting a video with the hashtag. The deadline for proposals is Wednesday 4 January 2017.

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POSTAL WORKERS DELIVERING FOR NEWBURY THIS CHRISTMAS

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Today Richard Benyon MP went to the Royal Mail sorting office in Newbury to meet the postmen and women working around the clock to ensure letters and parcels are delivered in time for Christmas.

Richard said:

“The team at the Newbury sorting officer are doing a sterling job.  Christmas is the busiest time of year for the postal service. But what I saw was a well-oiled machine of enthusiastic workers who are delivering for the people of West Berkshire.”

Royal Mail say that the last day to ensure you post is delivered before Christmas is 20th December for 2nd Class post and 21st December for 1st Class. 

 

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Richard Benyon was re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Newbury on 7 May 2015, with an increased majority of 26,368. Richard won 61 per cent of the vote share.

 

 

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