LGA calls for supported housing to be exempt from benefit cap

9 Jun 16

Supported accommodation must be exempt from the impending housing benefit cap in order to protect the most vulnerable and save piling additional pressures on councils and the NHS, the Local Government Association has urged.

The LGA said elderly people, ex-homeless people, those fleeing domestic violence and people with learning disabilities or mental health problems could be at risk if the housing benefit cap, which comes into force for social housing from April 2018, also applies to supported accommodation.

Following a review, the government will confirm in July whether the cap will extend to supported accommodation. This type of housing incurs higher maintenance costs and investment, but caters to some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society and allows them to live more independently.

Izzi Seccombe, LGA community wellbeing spokeswoman, said if the cap applies to supported housing then tenants will have nowhere else to go, as market uncertainty already means supported housing schemes are not being built and many existing places are being forced to close.

The LGA warned that the benefit cap and subsequent lost revenues would further exacerbate these problems, and that vulnerable tenants wouldn’t have enough money to cover the higher rental costs.

Councils would then be left scrambling to find tenants suitable accommodation and having to meet any shortfall in costs, at a time when care services and budgets are already under enormous strain, the LGA said.

“This will heap huge pressures onto councils who are already struggling to cope with and fund demand for housing and social care,” Seccombe added.

According to the National Housing Federation, more than 9,000 planned supported housing units may now not go ahead – equating to 96% of all developments within the sector.

An estimated 156,000 units of existing supported and sheltered housing – or 41% of all existing schemes – are also at risk of closure.

The LGA warned that a lack of supported homes could mean some people are forced to remain in hospital, seriously undermining efforts to move them into the community and heaping further strain on the NHS.

“It is vital that we ensure we continue to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people in our society, and that they live in homes that are fit for purpose,” said Seccombe.

“We urge the government to listen to our call and exempt supported housing from the cap, and to work with us to look at alternative ways of managing this cost.”

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