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Housing Benefit changes to take place in Supported Exempt Accommodation from 2019/20
If you are a provider of supported exempt accommodation, you may be aware of future changes that are expected to be made to the way in which Housing Benefit (HB) is administered and to consider the likely effect this may have on providers of supported accommodation.
We are offering a free 20 minute consultation to discuss these changes and how we can assist you to prepare for the future.
This blog post sets out how you can prepare for these changes.
Setting the scene for change
As is so often the case, the drive behind these changes is the limited availability of Government funding and the desire of the Government to ensure that available funds are being used effectively within the supported accommodation sector.
Over the past few months, and in order to carry out a review of the supported accommodation in Great Britain, the Government has spoken to providers, local authorities, charities and other related bodies, about their proposed future funding arrangements for the supported accommodation sector. This review provided the Government with an insight in to the scope, scale and cost of the sector.
Following on from this review, the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, Damien Green, published a written statement which set out the Governments’ proposed changes to funding for the supported exempt accommodation sector and their reasons for it. In his statement, Mr Green began by confirming that the Government recognises the vital role that providers of supported accommodation play in meeting the needs of vulnerable people in society. He states:
- Supported housing is of vital importance to vulnerable people and we want to continue to work with providers to ensure that services are as good as they can be.
In making these changes therefore, the Government want to assist providers in offering a service which gives quality and value for money whilst offering service users the best possible outcomes for them.
The new funding model
From 2019/20, the Government intends to bring in a new funding model for providers of supported exempt accommodation. From this date, there will be three levels of funding available to providers:
From 2019/20, the Government intends that core rent and service charges will be funded through HB or Universal Credit up to the level of the applicable LHA rate. This will apply to all those living in the supported housing sector. One fairly significant change however is that the Shared Accommodation Rate will not apply to people living in the supported housing sector.
The ‘top up’ funding
For costs above the level of the LHA rate, the Government will devolve to local authorities a ‘top up’ fund for them to administer locally - probably using a new department separate to the current HB department. The ‘top up’ funding recognises and reflects the fact that providers of supported exempt accommodation have higher average costs compared to general needs accommodation. The proposed arrangement will also give local authorities an enhanced role in commissioning supported housing in their area and allow them to develop their own approach to commissioning housing based on their local knowledge.
At this stage, we do not yet know what criteria each local authority is likely to adopt in administering the ‘top up’ fund (although it is anticipated that there will be accompanying regulations to ensure a level of consistency) but, as noted by Mr Green, the Government will be encouraging local authorities “to drive transparency, quality and value for money from providers in their area”. What is known however is that the Government intends to ring-fence the ‘top up’ fund to ensure it continues to support vulnerable people.
Funding by other means
Any remaining costs not covered by the applicable LHA rate or the ‘top up’ fund will have to be met by providers from other funding sources, for example, charitable donations, fund raising and so on.
Do providers need to do anything before the changes are effected?
The simple answer to this is ‘Yes’!
The amount of the ‘top up’ funding will be based on the amount of housing benefit your occupants are receiving i.e. total housing benefit amount, minus local housing allowance.
This time before the change is a valuable opportunity for all providers of supported exempt accommodation to review their costs and make sure that any appropriate changes are made before the new funding model comes into effect.
By preparing in this way, you will have a robust foundation upon which to claim under the new ‘top up’ fund.
It is vitally important that you take this opportunity to review your costs before the changes are made.
We can help you to ensure that all your costs are based on clear and accurate data using appropriate methodology which will withstand future scrutiny by the local authority administering the new funding model.
We have an outstanding track record working for UK charities and other non-profit-making organisations and successfully resolving housing benefit disputes before local authorities and tribunals. Our expertise around complicated cases, our direct access to leading barristers, and our in-depth knowledge of housing benefit ensure we get positive outcomes.
Contact us for a free twenty minute consultation on 01475 727089 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.