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SFHA welcomes government decision on supported housing

UK government abandons plans to take funding for temporary supported housing out of the benefit system.

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The UK government has abandoned plans to take funding for temporary supported housing out of the benefit system.

The decision concludes a controversy that was initiated in 2015 when the then Chancellor George Osborne announced that rent support for social housing tenants was to be capped at Local Housing Allowance rates, which in turn had been frozen as part of the UK Government’s austerity measures. This prompted an outcry from social housing providers across the country, especially in respect of supported housing where, due to the level of service provided, rents were considerably above LHA limits.

Informed by evidence and case studies provided by members, SFHA mounted a campaign against the measures. This pressure, alongside similar efforts by other organisations elsewhere in the UK, particularly the NHF, eventually forced a rethink.

In 2016 the then Secretary of State, Damian Green, announced that supported housing would be removed from the LHA cap, but instead a new form of funding would be developed whereby supported housing would be funded from a ring-fenced grant.

Following consultation, this approach was further amended in 2017 when the Prime Minister announced that social housing would not be subject to the benefit cap; sheltered and supported housing would continue to be funded from the benefits system; and only short-term supported accommodation would come under the proposed grant funding regime.

This latest decision brings the story full circle, giving social housing providers the confidence to continue to develop the supported housing that is so needed, knowing that the rental stream can be relied upon.

Commenting on the decision, SFHA Head of Public Affairs Sarah Boyack said:

"We are delighted with the Government's decision, which has been achieved through a combination of lobbying and engagement. I am particularly grateful to those members that were able to provide us with the information and the case studies to make the case for action.

“By making common cause with other stakeholders, we have helped the Government come to the right conclusion.

"That is not to say that the system is perfect. Answers need to be found to valid criticisms that the existing benefits system does little to support women who are fleeing domestic violence who have no recourse to public funds, or the fact that the removal of housing benefit for someone in supported housing is a barrier to them taking a job.

“These exceptions can be addressed if there is the will to do so. We look forward to working with the Government and other stakeholders and partners to find the solutions."