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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
St. Mungos (HCT 10) para 6.3; Women's Aid, (HCT 16) para 5 Back
Centrepoint (HCT 12)paras 17-20, Oral evidence taken on 15 January
2014, Qq365-366 Back
Oral evidence taken on 15 January 2014, Qq312-313 Back
Oral evidence taken on 15 January 2014, Q367 Back
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
Liaison Committee, Oral evidence from the Prime Minister, 14 January
2014, Qq 37-39 Back
Oral evidence taken on 12 February 2014, Q602 Back
Letter from the Minister for Welfare Reform to the Committee Chair,
10 March 2014 (HCT 91) Back