Home loan scheme offers cold comfort

Few social workers are likely to benefit from
the government’s starter home initiative aimed at giving public
sector workers a step up onto the first rung of the property

Stephen Byers, secretary of state for
transport, local government and the regions, last week announced
details of the £250 million scheme designed to tackle the
shortage of public employees in high-cost areas (News, page 4,
September 6). The scheme is aimed particularly at reducing the cost
of living for workers in the south east of England.

But a spokesperson for the Department for
Transport, Local Government and the Regions admitted that, although
social workers would be eligible for the loans, “the main focus in
this round will be the police, nurses and health workers and

Loans will be made to 3,992 nurses and health
workers, 2,817 teachers and 892 police officers. Most of these
loans will be granted to London-based workers.

Social workers will be left to compete with
firefighters and transport workers for the remaining 311 loans –
189 in London and 122 outside.

Director of the British Association of Social
Workers Ian Johnston described the details of the scheme as a “kick
in the teeth”.

“We are outraged,” he said. “The government
says it recognises the importance of what social workers do, but it
needs to put its money where its mouth is.

“There is a huge recruitment problem, and it’s
a problem that is increasing in magnitude. I think that certainly
this issue is so serious that people will be deprived of essential

Ninety-five individual local authorities,
registered social landlords and constabularies who made successful
bids for the scheme were due to be confirmed next week.

Workers hoping to benefit from the initiative
should then apply to their local starter home initiative manager
and check the DTLR (www.dtlr.gov.uk) and Housing
Corporation (www.housingcorp.gov.uk)

No closing date for applications has been

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