announcement on help with housing costs for those in supported housing

Work and Pensions Select Committee – announcement on help with housing costs for those in supported housing

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 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. 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 term we 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)