Fears voiced over giving money to addicts

RECOVERING addicts in Weston have hit out at plans to give housing benefits to tenants rather than landlords saying it could tempt people in to spending it on other things apart from rent.

RECOVERING addicts in Weston have hit out at plans to give housing benefits to tenants rather than landlords saying it could tempt people in to spending it on other things apart from rent.

Currently those receiving the cash can choose between the money being paid directly to them or to the person they rent from.

From April 1 this option will not be available for new claims. Members of Weston-based VIA (Views into Action) group, which provides support for people with drug and alcohol problems, say this could tempt vulnerable people into using the cash to pay for their addictions.

Ana Carvalho, from VIA and a recovering addict, said: "I know when I was addicted if I was given hundreds of pounds every month I would have used it to buy drugs.


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"This is a bad idea. Vulnerable people are already taking responsibility by making sure the money is used to pay for the rent directly."

From April people will also need a bank account for the money to be paid into, rather than a Post Office account.

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Julian Alzano, VIA chairman, said: "A lot of people do not have the right ID to open a bank account.

"After opening an account most customers get sent offers of credit cards, which would be another temptation."

Russell, aged 35, a recovering addict, said: "There are a lot of people out there that do not know how to manage money properly.

"I have a baby on the way and I know that if I needed to buy nappies or something else important I would probably use the rent money with the intention of replacing it, which would be hard to do."

At a meeting of the North Somerset Housing Forum this month, 15 members of VIA together with landlords from Weston told representatives of Liberata, the company contracted by North Somerset Council to administer benefits, of their concerns.

Forum chairman Gary Twinn said: "At the moment a lot of landlords know they will be getting their rent every month because it is going straight into their bank accounts.

"From April, a lot of them may say they do not want to take on people on benefits in case the money ends up being spent on something else."

Changes are being made at a national level but VIA and many of town's landlords hope their concerns will be listened to.

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