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SASW secures South Ayrshire clarification after 'bedroom tax' letter scare

SASW has received assurances from South Ayrshire council that parents struggling with 'bedroom tax' arrears are not being threatened with having their children removed, following a Daily Record article about letters being received by some claimants.
Responding to the article, Scots council chiefs threaten to evict struggling parents over bedroom tax arrears ... AND report them to Children's Services (2 November), SASW Manager Trisha Hall  has spoken to Executive Director of Care Services, Harry Garland, a former BASW member, who has explained that the intention was to support parents in need but that a review of the correspondence would be undertaken.

Ms Hall said: "One of the issues which may impact on vulnerable families is the deplorable bedroom tax.

"The story claims South Ayrshire council were sending letters on behalf of the Executive Director of Care Services Harry Garland to defaulting tenants who were in arrears as a result of the 'bedroom tax' informing them that the council may take legal action to repossess their houses. The letter says that children’s services may also be informed, advice that the Daily Record uses to refer to council officials as ‘child snatchers’ – the inference being that a referral to children’s services inevitably results in negative consequences, an unjust stereotype often levied at social workers.

"Harry has explained to SASW that the letters referred to were not specifically targeted at people who were in difficulties as a direct consequence of bedroom tax implications, but a standard response to all tenants who were in serious arrears.

"This correspondence goes out in an attempt to prevent escalation in situations that can have detrimental consequences to families, such as being made homeless. This is not an outcome to which the council aspires, as it has a legal duty to immediately rehouse families with children.

"Mr Garland is clear that the council’s intention is to avoid homelessness; the last thing the council wants is for a family to lose their house, children to have to move schools and all the other consequences which may occur. South Ayrshire already tops up to the maximum of what is legally allowed to support people in difficult situations.

"Mr Garland stated that the council has brought services for children, including social work, together in a way that optimises communication between various different departments.  Families referred to children’s services may therefore get the support they need to turn matters around.

"Mr Garland has agreed to review the standard correspondence being sent to families to ensure that there is no room for misinterpretation, and that the message is clear in terms of offering support, not threatening to take children away from their parents.