This week I stepped up my campaign to tackle the scandal of exempt accommodation in Birmingham, which is forcing more and more vulnerable people into unsuitable accommodation. I have joined Councillor Sharon Thompson, the Cabinet Member for Housing and Neighbourhoods in Birmingham, to petition the Government to take steps to ensure local authorities are given greater powers of regulation in this area. In Birmingham alone nearly 19000 exempt accommodation units exist in the sector, having nearly doubled over the last year and a half. The vast majority of these units are provided by Housing Association accommodation, with private landlords building up portfolios of leased and owned accommodation and then applying for registered provider status, exempting them from licensing regulations. Rogue landlords who provide little to no support for vulnerable residents contribute to exploitation and misery for those lacking support and the anti-social behaviour that this can lead to in the wider neighbourhood. We need a change in the law to prevent this reckless and immoral neglect to protect vulnerable people and the wider community. Please sign our petition here.
I wrote a piece for Inside Housing this week on the scandal of poor-quality exempt accommodation and why we have set up this petition. Some of those housed by exempt accommodation providers include domestic abuse survivors who may find themselves in housing with no hot water or heating over the winter months and no tenancy agreement that can support them in getting help. One constituent raised issues with their landlord about the cold and the damp of their accommodation and was given 14 days to leave by their landlord. It is utterly unconscionable that people are living in such conditions in 21st century Britain and that we are ignoring vulnerable people while rogue landlords make significant amounts of money. Something needs to change now.
With a small number of cases of the South Africa Covid-19 variant being found in Birmingham, surge testing will be carried out within the Soho and Jewellery Quarter ward. It is essential that residents continue to follow guidelines to keep this new variant under control. Dr Justin Varney has stressed how important it is that residents over 16 who live or work in the ward take part in door to door testing when offered, even if not displaying symptoms, alongside twice weekly rapid testing. Birmingham residents are doing a really good job at keeping Covid cases down – they’re still falling overall each week. By continuing to stick to the rules and having the vaccine when offered we can curb any potential spread of the variant and keep Birmingham safe.
Figures released this week by the Office of National Statistics show that unemployment in Birmingham Ladywood is continuing to rise with over 15,000 claimants in March. We know the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought to companies and workers, but the Government is not doing enough to support workers and those left unemployed by the pandemic. The Government is doing nothing to stop the appalling Fire and Rehire tactics wielded by companies – loyal and hard-working staff fired and then rehired on worse contracts, forced to work longer hours for fewer benefits, and they are also squeezing the incomes of those who are just getting by on Universal Credit with the prospect of a cliff edge in October. Removing the £20 uplift in the autumn is senseless and heartless. The Government must reconsider.
If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org 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!