Posts Tagged ‘bbc’
The Wales Co-operative Centre runs a number of projects that promote financial inclusion and that provide advice on money management. These projects are a key part of the Centre’s role in developing and implementing solutions to strengthen communities and promote inclusion in Wales. Jo Lovell, who manages one of these financial inclusion projects, blogs about todays BBC News report on tenants affected by a housing benefit cut in England.
BBC News has today reported that “More than half of tenants affected by a housing benefit cut in England were in arrears five months after the changes were introduced.
“Some 59% of tenants – more than 300,000 – were in arrears, analysis for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) found. But a DWP spokesman said “around 50% of Housing Association tenants were in arrears before the changes.”
The government said its reforms were tackling “welfare dependency”.
The changes to housing benefit in England, Scotland and Wales – dubbed the “bedroom tax” by critics, but described by Ministers as the removal of a “spare room subsidy” – were introduced in April last year.
If tenants are deemed to have one spare room, the amount of rent eligible for housing benefit will be cut by 14%. Those with two or more spare bedrooms have had reductions of 25%.
One in five people in arrears had paid nothing towards this. Researchers found widespread concern that those who had paid, had borrowed or made cuts to other essentials.
People were already struggling to manage their finances, but the introduction of the bedroom tax has only exacerbated this situation. Back in November 2014, Community Housing Cymru reported that “78% of their members had seen a spike in rent arrears since the introduction of the bedroom tax.” Now 15 months on from its introduction, we are really starting to see the true long term impact on both tenants and housing providers.
Our experience here at the Wales Co-operative Centre, tells us that tenants will find ways to make up additional payments in the short term, but they can’t sustain them over the longer term. To keep a roof over their heads, tenants will either have to make cuts in spending, and for some this will be the choice of heating or eating, whilst others will be forced to make the ill informed choice of borrowing money (usually at a high interest rate), which will ultimately push them into further financial difficulties and an increased risk of becoming homeless.
It seems to me that there are several different issues here:
- The lack of affordable housing for tenants to downsize
- Tenants financial capability
- Training for frontline workers
Through the various projects managed at the Wales Co-operative Centre, we are supporting all of the above issues.
Through our Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion (THFI) project, we are working closely with tenants and housing providers to improve peoples financial capability and access to advice and support they require, but this can be very challenging as it requires a change in behaviours, and we know all to well this doesn’t happen overnight. Our Financial Inclusion Champions project is helping to address the training needs of frontline workers in Wales, whilst our Co-operative Housing project, is keen to work with people interested in establishing a pioneering co-operative housing scheme. That could address the lack of appropriately sized affordable housing.
This report certainly highlights the need for more resources to be made available to support tenants who are struggling to make ends meet, training for frontline workers and for more community led affordable homes to be build.
“The Awkward Squad never retire”. How do worker co-ops and employee owned businesses deal with retirement?
In episode 2 of the hit BBC drama Baker Boys a key character, Gwynfor, has taken the hard decision to retire early. In Gwynfor’s case he knows that there is not likely to be any immediate return on his investment in the Valley Bara Co-operative as the Bakery is struggling – but what happens in a real worker co-operative or employer owned business when an owner / employee chooses to retire?
Retirement – What does this mean for shareholding / board membership / future involvement?
When a member of a worker co-operative retires, they would usually sell the shares they hold in the business. Many worker co-operatives clearly state in their rules that only current employees can hold shares in the business, so when a member retires it would signal the need to sell their shares, and usually the time frame within which the shares should be sold. They would normally offer the shares in the first instance to the other employees in the business. If no one wants to buy the shares, the business can buy them back. The business’ accountant would agree on the value of the shares at the time of the sale. If the retiring employee has very specialist knowledge which is critical to the business, the business may wish to appoint him/her to the Board of Directors as a non-executive board member so they can still make a contribution to the business’ future.
The Wales Co-operative Centre was set up thirty years ago and ever since we’ve been helping businesses grow, people to find work and communities to tackle the issues that matter to them. Our advisors work co-operatively across Wales, providing expert, flexible and reliable support to develop sustainable businesses and strong, inclusive communities.
The BBC Wales drama following a group of employees who buy out their bakery when their parent company tries to close it returns for a second series on Thursday 24th November.
The original series followed the trials and tribulations of the bakery staff as they formed a buy-out team and raised the finances to take over the company. The series examined the issues a real buy out team would face – distrust, initial reluctance, the fear of investing redundancy payments and the effects that the process can have on relationships with family and friends.
During the screening of the next series, we will be publishing a series of short blogs about key themes that are raised in the show.
To find out more, follow @WalesCoOp and the hashtags #bakerboys and #walescooperative and check our blog https://walescooperative.wordpress.com/ for regular updates.
For a quick reminder of the first series visit the BBC Website here and click here for a Western Mail interview with star Eve Myles
Author: Mark Smith
If you watch one TV programme this weekend, make it Baker Boys on BBC One Wales at 9pm on Sunday night.
The new three-part drama follows the story of a Valleys bakery’s workforce, faced with the stark prospect of its factory closing down due to the recession but triumphing over adversity by taking over the business as a co-operative.
I’ve already had a sneak preview of episode one and I can tell you that it strikes the perfect balance between the romantic ideal of a community ‘doing something for itself’ on a grand scale, with the reality of the arduous journey that such a group has to go on in order to achieve an employee buy-out and form a worker co-operative. It doesn’t pull any punches and doesn’t sacrifice excellent acting for the sake of conveying what could have been a complicated storyline.
The writers and actors need to be congratulated for getting it just right and bringing the issue of co-operatives to a new and much wider audience in Wales than ever before.
One of my colleagues has told me about the community-owned shop in The Archers on Radio 4, where the residents of Ambridge came together to save its local store. It’s a story that we’re familiar with at the Wales Co-operative Centre, mainly due to the exploits of the Llanmadoc Community Shop in Swansea; however, it seemed that storyline led to positive action in the ‘real’ world, with more community-owned businesses being set up.
This has made me wonder whether ‘Baker Boys’ will have a similar ripple effect in Wales, leading to many more co-operatives being set up here, across all different sectors and industries.
Who knows, maybe Pobol y Cwm could sustain the story, by setting up its own community co-operative. One thing is for sure, while we and other organisations in the co-operative sector work hard to promote alternative, ethical and sustainable business models, without having the media on board we’re only ever going to reach so many people.
I hope the Baker Boys is the start of something new, something big, that we can work with – maybe the time is right for high-profile social action media campaign, based around co-operatives, social enterprise and the ideals of the ‘Big Society’ agenda.
The BBC has announced the launch of BBC First Click campaign to help people get online.
BBC Connect is the website that will show you how to get involved, how to get other people involved and how to organise a ‘First Click’ session at your premises.
It provides information on the basics of using the internet and provides a phone number that you can call to discover where your nearest training session is being held.
The Communities 2.0 project run by the Wales Co-operative Centre in the guise of the Click.Connect.Discover campaign is a partner to BBC First Click in Wales.