Government Protects Night Shelter Housing Benefit

  • The government have had to step in to protect the housing benefits night shelters receive after a ruling on a case in Wales caused councils to review their policies.

    They have firmly said that councils can still pay housing benefit to the majority of night shelters, and recognise the contribution the shelters have.

    Earlier this year, a homeless shelter in Salford had to close after councils began to reassess definition of a 'home' and their eligibility criteria for housing benefit when staying in a night shelter.

    This is following a court ruling on a case in Wales from 2012; a judge ruled that the council was not liable to pay housing benefit to an individual to cover the costs of overnight stays at a Holyhead shelter.

    Councils then wanted to reassess who they would have to pay the benefit to, which would result in closure for many councils across the country that rely on the benefit to stay open.

    11 local authorities had withdrawn some or all payments to night shelters or were insisting on modifications to services, despite the judge of the tribunal saying the decision he made was specific to that case and the facts surrounding it.

    Emmaus homeless charity started a petition which they gave to Lord Freud impressing on him to take action to protect these night shelters so no more would have to lose funding.

    The government have now written to councils saying they can still pay housing benefit to the majority of night shelters to try to clear up confusion.

    The government has invested £470 million in night shelters for four years from 2011/12 and the note makes clear that housing benefit rules have not been changed, so to continue to pay the benefit to users of the majority of shelters:

    The government recognises the important contribution that night shelters can make to reducing rough sleeping and the associated costs to society.

    Jacqui McCluskey, director of policy for the umbrella body Homeless Link, said:

    When individuals suddenly find themselves on the streets, it is vital that they have somewhere to go.

    Night shelters are often the only emergency accommodation available and confusion over the ruling was beginning to lead to unnecessary closures, potentially leaving those in need with no option but the street.

     


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