announcement on help with housing costs for those in supported housing

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    Work and Pensions Select Committee – 

    At the Select Committee on 17 September the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the Minister for Welfare Reform announced that help towards housing costs for those living in supported accommodation[1] will be provided outside Universal Credit.


    This announcement follows last year’s consultation ‘Housing Benefit reform – supported housing: proposals for change in the way housing benefit assists those living in supported housing within the social and voluntary sector with their rent’.  Ministers have taken into account responses to that consultation and other representations, including those on the draft Universal Credit regulations.  


    The decision to provide help towards supported housing costs outside Universal Credit will ensure that we continue to provide a flexible system to help meet the higher costs often associated with providing this type of accommodation.


    In the short termthis help will be delivered broadly as now through local authorities under existing DWP legislation and funding arrangements. The need for any Discretionary Housing Payments is likely to remain low. People in supported accommodation will still be able to claim and receive Universal Credit but their housing costs will be provided separately.


    For the longer termwe are exploring the feasibility of a localised funding system. This is because local knowledge is essential to help identify this often diverse group, build effective relationships with providers and ensure that resources are targeted effectively at those who need it.


    As we confirmed in our consultation we are not looking to cut costs. We will of course continue to question costs where they seem unreasonably high. But local knowledge plays a big part in that and helps to ensure that any scrutiny is well directed.


    We believe that providing these costs outside Universal Credit will ease concerns over funding and payment regimes particularly for refuges and hostels that meet the current definition. At the same time it will allow us flexibility in developing future provision. 

    [1]In this context we are referring to a specific group defined as ‘exempt’ supported accommodation as currently set out in DWP legislation. That is either:

    A resettlement place; or accommodation provided by a county council, housing association registered charity or voluntary organisation where that body or person acting on their behalf provides the claimant with care, support or supervision.

    Legislative reference: Paragraphs 4 and 5 of schedule 3 to the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006 No. 217)



    “In the short term this help will be delivered broadly as now through local authorities under existing DWP legislation and funding arrangements. The need for any Discretionary Housing Payments is likely to remain low.”

    What does this mean? It’s still HB? What’s this about the need for DHPs? Why would they be an issue? Generally speaking the housing costs for this group are met in full. If they’re in the private sector they are “old style Reg 11” claims and we take the subsidy hit. Does nobody understand anything any more?

    Anthony Sandys

    But ‘existing DWP legislation’ is about as watertight as a sieve and I suspect will be subject to even more challenge as every RSL tries to shoehorn their properties into the ‘exempt accommodation’ definition.

    “People in supported accommodation will still be able to claim and receive Universal Credit but their housing costs will be provided separately….This is because local knowledge is essential to help identify this often diverse group”. So how’s that going to work then when someone makes their online UC claim; who decides if the accommodation is exempt or not in some national processing centre if all the local knowledge is somewhere else? I sense another fine mess looming…

    Julian Hobson

    Perhaps the biggest risk with this is that they will think that they know how much is spent by them on “exempt accommodation” because it is recorded on subsidy claim forms. They will probably also know how much is spent by us on “exempt accommodation” because it too is recorded on the forms (which may well be the motivation for leaving it where it is).

    If however (and i think we all believe it to be the case) those claim forms don’t tell the full story because of the RSL position then they and us, will be in for a massive shock.


    Yes Julian and I agree this is a time bomb. After all these years it is going to be tough for LA’s to admit they were getting it wrong too. The Government is likely to say tough….you knew what the rules were and you will have to pick up the tab.


    Can I hijack this thread a bit because nobody’s answered my other question! Would I be safe to define supported accommodation as that where the LL gets supporting people grant (if it still exists)? I know there’s a library full of case law on this but I’ve a feeling that LLs will want to classify, for example, all their elderly persons’ accommodation as “exempt” just because there’s a resident warden1


    Chris: on the whole yes. Technically it is an inidvidual decision on the facts of each case whether the claimant receives more than minimal support, but Judge Turnbull has given a nod and a wink to an approach whereby you say that everyone who is eligible for a place in this scheme will tend to have support needs.

    In particular, HA sheltered schemes that admit over 55s don’t accept just any over 55s: they are over-subscribed and successful applicants are people who would benefit from the supportive environment.

    So while as as matter of law “exempt accommodation” refers to the person and not the building, you will tend to apply it to whole buildings just for a quiet life. I think what you are suggesting is a sensible approach.


    Agree with Peter that the facts of the case are crucial (nature and extent of support), but would like to throw in a few points from an SP/Commissioning perspective.

    Payment of SP grant is no longer a reliable indicator, and probably hasn’t been for at least 5 years. In our authority, typical of many, this now de-ring fenced budget has been subject to deep cuts. Fewer providers receive lower grants, and there’s little or no scope to fund new projects which in every other respect satisfy the SP eligibility criteria.

    As a result there are many non-SP funded projects which closely resemble those with SP grant. Unless pots of cash miraculously appear, pretty soon the best you might be able to do is to look at accommodation based services ‘as if’ they were entitled to SP grant. Even then I guess you could argue that SP only covers housing related support, and the HB Regs refer to more general ‘care, support and supervision’.

    As to ‘local knowledge’, it’s hard to see how this accommodation can be accurately mapped without speaking to colleagues in Local Authority commissioning teams…


    “As to ‘local knowledge’, it’s hard to see how this accommodation can be accurately mapped without speaking to colleagues in Local Authority commissioning teams”

    Yes, I’ve asked them for a list of schemes in my area and so far …. no reply

    John Boxall

    It would seem to me that one of the biggest problems is that anyone can open what is potentially supported accomodation and expect the LA to pick up the tab.

    Obviously if you are a major regional centre, or possibly a seaside resort then you just have to take the hit……..

    The whole situation is ludicrous, what is needed is a proper planning and funding regieme

    Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and—and in short you are for ever floored.

    Wilkins Micawber, Ch12 David Copperfield


    I’m afraid that HB is currently part of the funding regime whether people like it or not – interestingly it is often the smallest part, with individual care and support packages costing Social Services budgets up to £300k/annum for the most complex people.

    Local Authorites aren’t quite the passive victims that posts like the one above suggest, and using words like ‘ludicrous’ at best demonstrates an insular ‘silo’ mentality. If there was more routine co-operation between Commissioners and Revs/Bens at the planning stage of new services – an approach that is working pretty well here – then I think many of these arguments would now be redundant.

    As LA employees we are all accountable to elected members and Council Tax payers. Time and time again supported housing and other preventative services are shown to save money, and the smarter authorities work cross-departmentally to enusre that HB subsidy is maximised at the same time as the new services we require are also developed. Nothing ludicrous about that.

    Let’s face it, you’re right that anybody with money can open a supported housing scheme. However, only LA commissioners buy the services that fill them up. That can be a pretty powerful tool, and from an HB perspective it’s surely better to be on the inside of the proverbial tent p*ssing out, than the outside p*ssing in?


    When it comes to formally commissioned services, I agree with Fred. Someone from an adult services commissioning team was making exactly the same point to me yesterday in relation to shared lives/adult placements: councils are sometimes sceptical about the genuineness/commerciality of the purported private agreement for lodgings that needs to exist in order for HB to be paid, but another way to look at it is to see HB as an opportunity for the Council to maximise government subsidy for a service that it is going to have to provide in one form or another at possibly far greater expense.

    However there is also a sub-sector of supported accommodation where the service is not commissioned and the providers accept referrals from unofficial sources or offer direct access. It doesn’t take much to set up something like this – lease a house from a private landlord, incorporate a CLG with off-the-shelf Articles and hey presto you have a voluntary organisation. Tell the Council you are providing low-level but more than minimal support to single people with chaotic lifestyles and charge £200 a week for a room in a shared house. The Council may well dispute your capacity to provide support in a sustainable way without any kind of funding, the Council might challenge your cost estimates, but it’s painstaking and time-consuming work. This is probably the kind of outfit that John had in mind.

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