In a landmark scheme due to be approved this week, Richmond council will offer extra points to families where at least one person does voluntary work in the community. More points help them to secure a council home.
“They will need to have worked for at least 18 hours a month for at least six months to qualify,” says the council, which currently has about 5,500 families on its waiting list. Successful applicants will be expected to continue voluntary work after being allocated a home and will be monitored, the council adds.
“The idea is to provide people with a positive incentive,” it added. The council will also award points to households where at least one person has “paid and meaningful” work, and to recently discharged soldiers who have seen active service.
The strategy is backed by the coalition government. Grant Shapps, the housing minister, has attacked what he describes as the “something for nothing culture” and has said he is determined to recognise people who work hard and “play by the rules”.
But Roger Harding, head of policy research and public affairs at Shelter, said the council was missing the point. Around 18,000 homes are built in London each year, but around 36,000 people join council housing lists.
“The real point is that there is not enough housing to go round,” he said. Richmond plans to monitor applicants after they have been awarded a council property to ensure they don’t simply give up their voluntary work as soon as they have got a home. “If they do we would have to decide whether the property had been obtained under a false premise,” said the council spokesman.
But Harding said administering the scheme could simply waste money. “There is a real danger that the costs of going round to people’s homes to continually check out their voluntary work record will outweigh the benefits,” he said.
The trend for linking work - paid or unpaid - with housing is spreading across London. Newham, Westminster and Wandsworth Council have all recently agreed to link the awarding of council homes with employment status.