Bristol housing charity facing closure

  • Bristol Foundation Housing, Bristol's largest provider of exempt accommodation, is facing closure if the city's council doesn't rethink its decision to cut housing benefits for residents.

    Bristol Foundation housing has 149 residents in nine hostels and is responsible for 40% of all exempt accommodation claims in the city reports Inside Housing.

    A review carried out at the end of March found Bristol Council not believing BFH to be providing the support it claimed in some cases and consequently reduced its annual enhance housing benefit funding to BFH from £916,656 to £173,836.

    The council was incentivised to act due to the uplift in rent not being fully covered by the government. The news of BFH's difficulties is significant because providers across the UK are locked in similar disputes with councils and typically argue that they charge fair rents and any cuts would put them out of business.

    BFH went into administration early this month and the charity's administrator Leonard Curtis said that the decision to reduce the enhanced benefit payments has meant that they had little chance of avoiding liquidation. 75 of the 111 tenants affected by the cut are appealing its decision.

    A spokesperson for Bristol Council have said that it has undertaken ‘thorough' assessment of tenants' needs as part of a city-wide review. "This review was conducted by specially trained staff and found evidence to support about 20 per cent of claims for extra services," she added. But the charity's residents' association claims the review was unfair.

    Phil Shanks, chief executive of Houses4Homes, which supplies homes for 400 disabled people, said: "Councils are not dealing with people who are trying to screw the system. Both [councils and providers] should have the same agenda: making sure the right level of benefit is paid."

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