Virtually every report coming out of Salford Council at the moment is showing that Salford's social problems are going to get worse. And worse. And worse…
Last week, for instance, the 37 page Salford Homelessness Strategy 2013-2018, set out the `key challenges' the city faces, through both the ConDem Government's so-called `welfare reforms' (Bedroom Tax etc) and the ongoing crisis of a "lack of suitable affordable housing".
Some of the figures produced make horrendous reading…In April 2012, 12.4% of all households in Salford – that's 12,222 households – were on the Council's official housing waiting list, of which almost 500, or almost 8%, were homeless.
It's set to get worse, with the report adding: "Changes brought in by welfare reform will have a huge impact on an increasing number of households which would inevitably lead to more homelessness."
The strategy document states that, while the trend for homelessness acceptance was going down until 2010, there's been a 13.7% increase since then, with the majority of struggling households having children.
The document also lists increasing housing problems for single non-priority people, young people who are leaving care or who are parents, older people with support needs, those at risk from domestic violence, alcohol issues and mental health issues.
The `strategy' highlights a direct link between the ConDem Government's Welfare Reform Act 2012 and homelessness for increasing numbers of Salford residents…
"The reforms proposed are intended to protect the most vulnerable, create the right incentives to get more people into work resulting in a fairer benefit and tax credit system" it states "however our initial analysis indicates that welfare reform will have a detrimental effect on many of the high risk groups."
While Salford had, officially, only ten rough sleepers in a count last November…"It is expected that the number of rough sleepers to increase as the result of the new legislative changes introduced by the government."
To make the problems worse, the strategy states that there is "An increasing lack of affordable housing options" which "would more likely result in more homeless people and rough sleepers".
The strategy reckons that Salford needs 1,000 affordable homes per year being built to cope. But Salford Council's own policies and practices have helped stoke the crisis.
What the report doesn't state is that Salford Council has been busy flattening its affordable housing, initially through the last Government's discredited Pathfinder project, with a vision to "create a mixed housing offer with a range of types, values and tenures that will meet the aspirations of both new and existing residents"…Or as the Salford Star put it "to bulldoze loads of existing, affordable houses, and build new expensive ones for Manchester commuters without pissing off the people already living in those areas" (see here).
Whole streets full of affordable housing were destroyed in Langworthy, Charlestown and Lower Kersal, and Broughton (see latest Lower Broughton Housing Desert article here), while next week Salford Mayor Ian Stewart is set to sign the demolition notice for affordable towerblock flats in Pendleton, as part of the Pendleton PFI – where, again, affordable housing is to be replaced by new houses for private sale (see here).
Meanwhile, Salford was one of the first councils in the country to tear up its compulsion for 20% of new housing developments to be affordable (see here).
The Council also agreed to the Government's `convergence' of social rents that will see average social rents rise from £67.95 in 2012 to £73.74 a week by 2015… despite Assistant Mayor, Paul Dennett's minuted concerns "of how the proposed increase will affect certain groups the hardest, and he queried the robustness of the methodology used as to whether it has taken into consideration the present economic downturn" (click here)
It all adds up to a housing crisis which the Salford Homelessness Strategy seeks to mitigate through "improved affordable housing provision, and an effective private rented sector" (see the full document – click here and download `Homelessness Strategy').
On top of this, Salford's Social Fund, which is used to "ease the hardship of poor and vulnerable households", is being changed and slashed by 13%, to 2005-6 levels, by the ConDem Government.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is transferring most of the cut funding to Salford Council, which will be left to sort out this "last resort safety net in cases of extreme hardship".
Under its new Salford Discretionary Support Scheme (SDSS), the Council will be "supporting people through the welfare reform changes to mitigate the effects on vulnerable people and to support those in greatest need" and "given continuing pressure on household finances, it would be sensible to assume an increased number of applications"… except that, because of Government cuts, there's not enough funding to go around.
The Council report on the changes to the Social Fund states that people will be signposted to foodbanks, while the `High' risk assessment at the end of the report states chillingly…
"The weight of demand and potential for an increasing number of claims made to the existing scheme demonstrate the continuing level of financial hardship being felt by households in the city.
"The removal of this safety net will have potentially extremely serious consequences for vulnerable households" it adds "This is particularly the case given the reduction in funding being made available to local authorities. Failure to deliver an effective scheme will potentially increase costs to the authority in other ways, including levels of family breakdown and stress, higher crime, increased poverty and distress including recourse to expensive doorstep lending and homelessness."
And these are the conclusions from just two reports out in the last few weeks. Another, earlier report on Salford citizens' welfare made even grimmer reading (see here and see here), while it's going to be harder to get Welfare Rights and Debt Advice (see here)
Increased rents, Bedroom Tax, high unemployment, lack of affordable housing and the slashing of safety nets all add up to the perfect poverty storm in Salford.
See also previous Salford Star article Homeless Presentations To Salford Council Rocket - click here
* graphic by Anya K