Calls to support social housing tenants in Scotland as housing association survey shows many struggling with essential bills.
A survey of over 700 social housing tenants has shown that the cost-of-living crisis continues to pull more people into poverty, with almost half saying the crisis has affected their physical and mental health. In response, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) is calling for Scottish Government to commit to long-term funding to support social tenants struggling with the cost of basic essentials like fuel and food.
The research conducted by West of Scotland Housing Association found that 60% said they were ‘worried a lot’ about affording food with nearly 80% saying the same for energy costs. As these costs rose, 55% had limited contact with friends and 44% missed meals in order to limit spending.
A recent survey of SFHA members outlined the extensive support that housing associations provide to tenants, with 95% providing financial advice and support. As part of the Scottish Government’s Winter Hardship Fund, SFHA secured £1m to ensure social landlords were able to respond to food insecurity through the winter. Alongside this, through Scottish Government’s most recent round of the Social Housing Fuel Insecurity Fund, SFHA provided housing associations with £7.25m to support 55,000 households struggling to pay for fuel.
Ahead of Scottish Government setting out its annual plans as part of next month’s Programme for Government, SFHA says it’s clear that this funding must continue until at least the end of the Parliamentary term. The member body also says government must take decisive action to deliver more social homes and decarbonise housing to reduce tenants’ energy bills, if the First Minister is to meet his own targets on child poverty and net zero.
Sally Thomas, CEO, SFHA said: “This government has put tackling child poverty at the centre of its agenda: and to deliver on that, the First Minister must prioritise social homes.
“Social housing is so much more than an affordable rent. Making sure that someone has a safe, warm and affordable home is one of the biggest differences we can make to people’s lives. And that’s what our housing associations and co-operatives do.
“But they need the right support. So ahead of the Programme for Government, SFHA is urging the Scottish Government to deliver the affordable homes we desperately need, support social housing providers to tackle the climate emergency and shore up support for tenants who are struggling with the cost of living right now.”
The call comes as part of SFHA’s campaign, Housing at Scotland’s Heart, which aims to tell the story of Scotland’s social homes and what they mean for the people who live in them. SFHA members not only provide homes at affordable rents but support tenants with a range of needs, from access to social security and employability to health care and support.
When diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, Betty, a tenant of Horizon Housing Association was offered a social home that met her health needs. She said: “My doctor very kindly got the occupational therapist to come and see us. And she says, ‘there’s only one thing for it, we’ll need to get you out of here, because this is not going to be a life for you.’
The letter came in to say that they were going to offer us [an adapted home] if you’d like to go and have a look. I couldn’t believe it. It was like winning the lottery. The weight just fell off your shoulders. Everything in this house helps, because you’ve no steps, no stairs, wide doors for the wheelchair to get in and out. Its accessibility that makes your life 100% better. It really does. You feel safe and comfortable and happier, you know. It just lifts your whole being.”
As part of the campaign, SFHA spoke to tenants from across Scotland about what their social home meant to them. More information can be found at the below link.
Header image: Horizon Housing Association tenant Elizabeth Lister (Betty) enjoying her garden in her accessible home.