I’ve been working on the issue of exempt accommodation this week and have written to Serco and the Prison and Probation Service to ask them to commit to no ‘out-of-city’ exempt placements in Birmingham. The exempt accommodation sector is shared accommodation that is not commissioned under the local authority, that utilises the ‘exempt’ provisions of current Housing Benefit and Universal credit. In Birmingham, we have seen the exempt sector grow over the last 18 months from 11,500 to 18,700 units across the city, many of which are in our constituency of Ladywood. The growth in the sector has led to a multitude of problems that affect the social fabric of our city. Constituents are regularly writing with concerns about anti-social behaviour and community safety issues, with areas of the city becoming saturated with this type of housing provision. It is not right that people are being housed in Birmingham who have no connections to the city and no friends or family who can support them.
I have been working on this with Birmingham City Councillor Sharon Thompson and together we welcome the supported accommodation housing pilot that has been launched in Birmingham. It has received more than £1 million in funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and seeks to ensure that exempt accommodation meets a high standard with tenants and families aware of their rights in the service they should expect, as well as social workers to provide the care, support, or supervision that the tenants need to live as independently as possible and to a standard that is acceptable in modern Britain.
I have also written to Robert Jenrick MP, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, and Local Government regarding the regulation of shisha lounges. I have been campaigning for a while to strengthen the regulation around these premises to prevent crime and disorder, ensure public safety, and to provide specific oversight of this sector. Local authority leaders and constituents have contacted me repeatedly with their concerns that regulation is not strong enough and that amendments to current legislation are needed to give local authorities the necessary powers to curb anti-social behaviour that is emanating from shisha lounges. I am hoping to meet (virtually, of course!) with the Secretary of State to further discuss these issues and the possibilities of bringing forward amendments to existing legislation.
The Office of National Statistics this week released some worrying figures about the rising rate of unemployment across the UK. I am aware of the difficulties many constituents are facing with employment and finances in the midst of this pandemic. Citizens Advice have suggested that 6 million UK adults have fallen behind on at least one household bill and that, in total, this amounts to around £1.6 million in household bill arrears. Of course, if left unaddressed, these will have significant and negative impacts on both individuals and the wider economy. Birmingham’s Citizens Advice are there to support constituents with advice and help with any number of issues, from rent arrears to claiming Universal Credit. Visit the website at citizensadvice.org.uk or call on 03444 77 1010.
If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com or by calling 0121 661 9440. My team and I are of course subject to many of the same challenges and restrictions as other families in Birmingham Ladywood at the minute, but we will do everything we can to help constituents in these difficult times.
Keep your social distance, stay safe and healthy – and please, keep washing your hands!