Why we’re supporting Shelter’s DSS Discrimination campaign
In November the charity Shelter launched a petition to address the discrimination people face when looking for some where to live while in receiving DSS. In just a few weeks the petition has received 30,000 signatures and highlighted the problem that many people face when looking for suitable accommodation. Jonathan from our campaigns team explains why we are backing Shelter's call to end the practice of 'No DSS'.
A private sector tenancy can be key to the recovery of people living with severe mental illness. That shouldn’t be denied to people receiving housing benefit.
We know that the recovery of people living with severe mental illness is different for everyone, but having a stable home is vital whether you’re at the start or the end of your journey.
That’s why we’re pleased to support Shelter’s DSS Discrimination campaign. The campaign aims to stop so-called ‘no DSS’ practices that are unfairly locking renters receiving housing benefit out of homes they could otherwise afford. Research by Shelter has shown that almost one in three people receiving housing benefit haven’t been able to apply for a home they wanted because of ‘No DSS’ policies.
We felt that the impact of not being able to get home you want could be severe for people affected by severe mental illness. Getting a tenancy in the private sector is the last step people take to living independent. The messages we received from housing services and campaigners in our housing survey confirmed that this was a problem our beneficiaries face.
One in 10 of our housing staff said that they had helped tenants who have been rejected five times or more for a private sector tenancy because the receive Housing Benefit.
Over a third said their tenants mental health had declined as a result and they not able to move on when they were ready.
This means longer stays in supported housing for people who longer need it. It also means that are fewer places in services for other people who could benefit from the help supported housing gives.
Even when letting agents accept housing benefit claimants, many staff said their tenants often don’t have someone to act as a guarantor, which makes accessing a tenancy even more challenging.
Our campaigners shared similar stories. Around one of third of people who took our survey and receive Housing Benefit (or support someone who does) said they had been turned down for a private sector tenancy in the past.
90% said they had not applied for a private sector home because the advert said people receiving housing benefit would not be accepted. 40% have taken a substandard property because they couldn’t find a place they wanted. Nobody living with severe mental illness should have to take a poor quality home because they are discriminated against.
We were told several personal stories that illustrate the scale of the problem. One person said they were trapped in a flat with no heating and poor insultation for three years because they couldn’t find anywhere else to live.
Another said that their daughter, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and PTSD, had to move an hour and a half away from their hometown because they couldn’t access a tenancy locally. This was even though they have a guarantor and excellent references from previous landlords.
Rethink Mental Illness believes everyone living with severe mental illness should have a safe and secure place to call home, regardless of whether they receive housing benefit. That’s why we’re pleased to support Shelter’s DSS Discrimination campaign.
Could you help us challenge attitudes and change lives for everyone severely affected by mental illness? Sign up to become a campaigner today.