27/04/2012 | By Gavriel Hollander, Inside Housing

Housing experts have criticised Grant Shapps over comments he made about housing benefit claimants in the wake of the news Newham Council plans to move hundreds of tenants outside the borough.

The housing minister claimed those on benefits ‘cannot have the same choices as working people’.

But, as Inside Housing revealed last month, 93 per cent of new claims for housing benefit between January 2010 and December 2011 were made by people in work.

‘Lots of people that do vital but low-income work are supported by housing benefit,’ said Abigail Davies, assistant director of policy and practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing.

Research showing the vast majority of new claimants are in work was published by the Building and Social Housing Foundation last month.

‘To portray housing benefit claimants as a completely distinct group from working people is neither helpful nor accurate,’ said Jim Vine, head of UK housing policy and practice at BSHF.

‘This government is so out of touch they don’t seem to have the first clue what their policy is doing, or to whom,’ said Stephen Timms, shadow employment minister, whose East Ham constituency is in Newham.