Union fears Cashback Scheme will lead tenants to tackle problems themselves, rather than employ experts

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UCATT has warned the government’s proposed Tenant Cashback Scheme could result in tenants endangering themselves.

Under the proposals, tenants can claim up to £500 for undertaking DIY tasks on their property. There are concerns that this could lead to tenants inadvertently exposing themselves to asbestos contained in their homes, or damaging water and electricity supplies which would pose risks for themselves or their neighbours.

The danger of being exposed to asbestos is particularly acute as social landlords do not have to manage asbestos within a tenant’s home, nor do they have to maintain an asbestos register for their properties. Without this information tenants undertaking DIY work could be endangering their health, without even realising it.

UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy said: “Of course tenants want to take pride in their own homes but there is a danger that by trying to cut the costs of repairs and maintenance, the Government’s scheme will potentially endanger the health and welfare of tenants and their neighbours. Councils and housing associations employ qualified repairs and maintenance workers who should be undertaking this safety critical work. ”

UCATT have also accused the Housing Minister Grant Shapps of being disingenuous when he launched the programme, by claiming that tenants who took up the scheme could become “an apprentice in their own home”.

If someone did want to develop their skills, the existing funding arrangements for apprentices would make it virtually impossible. Currently the funding for an apprentice aged 19-24 is only half of that which a 16-18 year old receives and those aged over 24 can only undertake so-called adult apprentices.

The number of people undertaking craft based apprenticeship schemes is virtually at an all-time low and is far below the numbers needed in the industry. Skills shortages will increase as the construction industry recovers from recession. The problem of a lack of apprentice training is made more acute by the ageing nature of the existing workforce.

To boost the number of apprentices UCATT has been campaigning for all public sector construction procurement projects to be linked to training. Companies that were not prepared to train apprentices, would be barred from undertaking such work. The Government are opposed to such procurement rules.

Steve Murphy said: “Every year thousands of people are blocked from gaining the skills to become a fully qualified construction worker, because they can’t find an apprenticeship. Rather than pretending that people can become apprentices at home, the government should be increasing apprentice numbers to ensure the workforce is able to meet the industries future requirements.”


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