While housing is a devolved matter, which is the responsibility of Scottish Parliament, Local Housing Allowance and other matters affecting homelessness in Scotland such as 85% of social security expenditure remain reserved to Westminster.
In November 2022, the DWP Secretary of State confirmed that Local Housing Allowance rates for 2023-24 “will be maintained in cash terms at the elevated rates agreed for 2020/21."
The SNP want to see Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates increased in line with average rents, and have consistently pushed the UK Government to ensure LHA rates must not go back to the pre-pandemic cuts that saw the private sector become totally unaffordable for people in receipt of benefits in some areas.
The UK Government’s decision to maintain LHA rates in cash terms in 2023/24 is a further freeze for private renters and places additional pressure on tenants.
Through Discretionary Housing Payments, the Scottish Government are supporting tenants who are under financial pressure and where the UK welfare state is not providing the safety net it should.
In Scotland, funding has been allocated to local authorities as they are able to best target this funding to help the people who need it most, for example through the Tenant Grant Fund to support tenancies and prevent homelessness.
In total in 2022/23, the Scottish Government have made up to £84.1m available to local authorities to spend on Discretionary Housing Payments: £68.1m to fully mitigate the bedroom tax, helping over 91,000 households in Scotland to sustain their tenancies; £10.9m to mitigate against the damaging impact of other UK Government welfare cuts including the ongoing freeze to Local Housing Allowance rates, and the benefit cap, and another £2.6m to allow greater benefit cap mitigation, so local authorities can mitigate the cap as far as possible from 1 January 2023.
An additional £2.5m will be made available to local authorities, to spend at their discretion, to provide additional cost of living support to households.
The SNP have also called on the DWP to support renters by suspending the Shared Accommodation Rate for under-35s and care leavers.
We cannot continue to wait for the UK Government to act while the Scottish Government continue to mitigate for cruel Westminster policies. The only way to escape that and build a fairer, more equal society is with independence.
My SNP colleagues and I at Westminster will continue to work towards securing a better future for the people of Scotland.