Loans scheme will benefit staff

Social workers look set to benefit from a
scheme to give key public sector workers in expensive areas
interest-free loans to help towards the cost of buying a house.

The scheme, to be announced soon by transport
and local government secretary Stephen Byers, is aimed mainly at
south east England.

It is part of a radical £250 million
initiative to tackle the shortage of public employees in high-cost

Under the scheme, key public employees in
their 20s will be eligible for interest-free loans of up to
£10,000 towards a deposit on a property.

They will have up to five years before having
to make any repayments although full details have still to be
worked out.

A spokesperson for Byers said: “Social workers
will be eligible for the loans if the local authority deems them to
be key workers where there is a shortage. If the council says they
should be in the scheme, they will be.”

Byers said: “There can be little doubt that if
we are to recruit and retain key public sector workers, greater
assistance will need to be provided to meet the increase in housing
costs. We feel that the provision of interest-free loans has the
potential to be of real benefit to those who want to buy their own

Major problems have been identified in the
South East in recruiting and retaining public sector staff because
of the high cost of living. Oxfordshire MPs have led the campaign
for the action being announced by Byers.

“Affordable homes” schemes are also projected
to cover housing hotspots elsewhere in Britain such as in Bath and

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