The benefits system and supported housing – September 2018

The UK Government has announced that it will not be taking ‘short term’ support   housing out of the benefits system and funding it through a devolved grant based system. Neither will it go ahead with the introduction of a regulated rent for sheltered housing and extra care housing in England.

 

This change of heart is very much testament to the sustained pressure that the housing and support sector have put on Westminster to re-think its plans and ends years of uncertainty for supported housing.

 

In their report Funding for Supported Housing – Government Response to Two Consultations, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) acknowledged the complexity of what they were planning and the concerns expressed by respondents to the two consultations they carried out earlier this year.

 

This change of heart appears to means that housing benefits will remain in place for those living in supported accommodation (ie specified accommodation) although we do not know how long for. The definition of specified accommodation looks set to remain unchanged eg homeless hostels run by local authorities that do not entail shared living space; purpose built supported or sheltered housing with little or no support. The DWP and MHCLG indicate that they are looking to make some changes in England: the report states that they will further scrutinise the relationship between support and eligible housing costs as well as the role of housing related support. The stated aim of this is to create a system in England that provides a ‘sound and robust oversight regime’ in England – something which the DWP and MHCLG is aware is in place in Scotland.

 

Whilst the announcement goes a long way to meeting the wish list that the Scottish Government presented to the DWP in July (to which the Unit and various other organisations signed up to) there are some areas that remain a concern:

  • Refuge accommodation – women with no recourse to public funds will not be assisted by this change of heart and will continue to be unable to gain financial assistance with refuge costs.
  • No requirement for LAs to create and maintain local registers of Specified Accommodation which would have provided transparency and assistance in identifying Universal Credit claims from this sort of accommodation.
  • No guarantee about how long the HB system will remain in place – although it seems reasonable to infer that HB is set to stay beyond UC roll out.
  • Specified Accommodation criteria is problematic for sheltered housing and for retirement housing even though these services may entail higher housing costs
  • Working people in hostels and /or homeless supported housing face difficulties in affording the rent & service charge

If you would like to discuss the implications for your organisation or share your views on this area of policy, please contact Yvette Burgess at yvette.burgess@ccpscotland.org