Support for housing costs in the reformed welfare system - Work and Pensions Committee Contents

5  Supported accommodation

116. Supported accommodation is used to house vulnerable people and households, for example: homeless people and vulnerable households with high support needs; ex-offenders; and, women fleeing domestic violence. Exemptions from the Benefit Cap apply to tenants who live in "exempt" supported accommodation. Accommodation is exempt if it is:

·  Accommodation provided by an upper-tier county council, housing association, registered charity or not-for-profit organisation where that body or a person acting on their behalf provides the claimant with care, support or supervision.

·  A resettlement unit.[122]

117. Witnesses identified that not all supported accommodation falls under the definition of supported exempt accommodation, because the definition only includes accommodation where the support is provided by or on behalf of the landlord. However, in many cases, support in this type of accommodation is commissioned on behalf of the local authority, not on behalf of the landlord. In these cases, those staying in supported accommodation would not be exempt from the Benefit Cap.[123]

118. Centrepoint pointed out that the current definition used by DWP was drawn up in 1996 and does not reflect changes in commissioning arrangements that have occurred in the intervening years. Therefore, two people may be in supported accommodation which offers the same service (but with a different commissioning structure) and one person may be exempt while the other is not. Witnesses reported that between 30% and 46% of the supported accommodation they worked with was not exempt.[124]

119. Women's Aid was particularly concerned that women and children attempting to escape abusive situations may be prevented from doing so because accommodation may not be available which was exempt from the Cap. It was particularly concerned that women might have to remain in dangerous situations while waiting for suitable accommodation to become available. It recommended that all refuges be considered exempt.[125]

120. Paul Anderson of Homeless Link pointed out that the local authority was having to cover the extra costs for those it had placed in non-exempt supported accommodation. He warned that if the situation continued unchecked, supported accommodation might become unsustainable in the long run.[126]

121. Lord Freud said in a letter to stakeholders in April 2013 that the Government planned to look again at the anomalies affecting supported accommodation with a view to amending the relevant Regulations.[127] In answer to questions from the Committee Chair in oral evidence to the Liaison Committee on 14 January 2014, the Prime Minister undertook to look again at the anomalies in the treatment of different types of supported accommodation.[128]

122. When we questioned Lord Freud about this in this inquiry, he was able to confirm that "we will be defining supported accommodation in a broader way so that it protects more hostels and refuges". He said that amending Regulations would be laid very shortly and implemented from April that would ensure that "virtually all" supported accommodation would be exempt.[129]

123. Following speculation in March in the specialist housing press that the exemption would not in fact apply to the vast majority of supported accommodation, Lord Freud confirmed in a letter to the Chair on 10 March that the amending Regulations "will ensure that virtually all supported housing [...] will not be subject to the benefit cap". He also clarified that exempt supported accommodation "can never be subject" to the SSSC.[130]

124. We welcome the Government's recognition that exempting only some supported accommodation from the Benefit Cap was anomalous and the action it has taken to address this by bringing forward amending legislation to ensure that "virtually all" supported accommodation will now be exempt. We expect to see the changes implemented from April 2014.

122   NHF, Benefits for people living in supported and sheltered housing, January 2013 Back

123   St. Mungos (HCT 10) para 6.3; Women's Aid, (HCT 16) para 5  Back

124   Centrepoint (HCT 12)paras 17-20, Oral evidence taken on 15 January 2014, Qq365-366 Back

125   Oral evidence taken on 15 January 2014, Qq312-313 Back

126   Oral evidence taken on 15 January 2014, Q367 Back

127   Letter to Stakeholders, National Housing Federation Website, April 2013 and written evidence submitted by Women's Aid to the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into support for housing costs in the reformed welfare system, Women's Aid (HCT 16) para 6 Back

128   Liaison Committee, Oral evidence from the Prime Minister, 14 January 2014, Qq 37-39 Back

129   Oral evidence taken on 12 February 2014, Q602 Back

130   Letter from the Minister for Welfare Reform to the Committee Chair, 10 March 2014 (HCT 91) Back

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