On 18th August 2014, the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, received answers to five written questions on the topics of housing benefit, human trafficking and forced labour.
Housing Benefit: Social Rented Housing
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to increase the availability of suitable housing for housing benefit claimants eligible for the under-occupancy charge who are willing but unable to move to smaller accommodation due to a lack of social housing available.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon): The 2015-18 Affordable Housing Programme encourages housing providers to build social homes of sizes that match local household needs. Of the successful bids so far, 77% have been for 1 and 2 bedroom homes. This will make more housing available for households in social housing who wish to downsize.
The Government has also taken steps to support mobility among tenants in the social rented sector. Our social housing reforms have given councils and social landlords much more flexibility in the allocation of housing. Our statutory guidance on social housing allocations encourages local authorities to prioritise under-occupying tenants wishing to move, and to consider whether there are provisions in their allocation scheme that might make it difficult for under-occupiers to move. In February, we issued a guide to help landlords facilitate mutual exchanges; the guide highlights various steps landlords can take to make mutual exchange a more attractive and viable proposition for tenants. The introduction of the national HomeSwap Direct scheme has made it easier for tenants wanting to move to find a suitable property. Since its launch in October 2011, tenants have carried out over 18 million searches of the property data held on HomeSwap Direct. The Government has also made clear its intention to introduce a Right to Move for social tenants who need to move to take up a job or be closer to work – we intend to consult soon on proposals.
In addition, many social landlords (both housing associations and councils) are helping affected tenants to move to more suitable accommodation by holding “mutual exchange fairs” (where tenants who want to downsize can meet with tenants who want a larger property), running transfer incentive schemes, and repairing properties which are being swapped through mutual exchange.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many individuals on domestic worker visas have sought assistance as victims of human trafficking through the National Referral Mechanism.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many individuals on domestic worker visas have been identified as victims of human trafficking offences in each year since 2010.
Baroness Northover: The Home Office does not collect the information that has been requested. However, domestic workers who are abused or exploited, regardless of their immigration status, can receive care and support in the UK.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many audits of supply chains have been undertaken to ensure that public bodies and publicly-funded projects are not using forced labour through their supply chains.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what auditing steps they have taken since 2010 to ensure that public bodies and publicly-funded projects are not using forced or trafficked labour in their own supply chains.
Baroness Northover (LD): We do not hold central information on the number of audits commissioned or auditing steps taken regarding publically funded projects, as these would be a matter for individual contracting authorities to commission.
All suppliers are required to comply with UK law, including relevant human rights and employment rights law. Social, environmental and ethical issues are taken into account in the procurement process, where relevant and proportionate.
In particular, EU procurement rules require contracting authorities to exclude suppliers that have been convicted of certain offences, and allow authorities to exclude suppliers for grave professional misconduct. The new EU procurement Directives, which are currently being transposed into UK law, update the mandatory exclusion offences to explicitly include offences of “trafficking in human beings”.