Friday, 16 August 2013

Warning to Housing Association Staff

Potential Threat from Bedroom Tax Protestors
A Merseyside housing association is advising office staff not to display their uniforms or name badges outside work hours due to fears for their safety from bedroom tax protestors. 

First Ark, the parent company of Knowsley Housing Trust, which owns around 14,000 homes, issued the warning to nearly 500 staff in an internal newsletter last week. 

The message follows months of protests in the region about the bedroom tax, under which working-age social housing tenants with a spare bedroom have their benefit reduced.

A number of campaigners have held protests outside the offices of housing associations which they deem to be ‘complicit’ in the tax due to their need to collect rent. 

A spokesperson for KHT, which has around 3,000 tenants affected by the bedroom tax, said: ‘Due to the number of protests there have been in the region about the bedroom tax and the intensity of feeling around evictions, we have advised staff to take extra precautions to minimise risk if they are wearing KHT uniforms or badges outside work hours.’

He added that front line staff have received training to deal with ‘confrontational situations’ because of the nature of their jobs which office staff have not had.

Other Merseyside landlords, including Halton Housing Trust, Liverpool Mutual Homes and One Vision Housing, have no plans to follow KHT’s lead. 

Hugh Owen, director of policy and communications at Riverside, said he has not been aware of ‘bedroom tax-related threats’ against its staff and said Riverside has no plans to issue a warning. But he added: ‘I know employees are finding encounters with tenants more difficult because of the distressing circumstances people are finding themselves in.’ 

Joanna Walker, spokesperson for lone worker safety charity Suzy Lamplugh Trust backed KHT’s move. She said: ‘It makes sense for workers to keep the aggression to a minimum by taking name badges off.’

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