Here at Support Solutions UK we like to keep our followers and clients up to date with latest industry news. This briefing (Briefing 14) will take a look at the Exempt Accomodation Parliamentary Enquiry, providing our readers with the information on why the enquiry was undertaken along with all of the latest developments relating to the enquiry.
Support Solutions UK exists to provide technical and sound advice to the supported housing and adult social care sector assisting them to navigate and manage the complexity of the structural and financial arrangements in place across the many different regulatory and compliance frameworks. As a company we have close to 25 years of experience in the sector with a high level of competence and excellent track record therefore is in a strong position to provide advice and assistance to providers of social housing, supported housing and adult and children’s social care.
Why was this Enquiry Undertaken?
The exempt accommodation parliamentary enquiry aims to establish a clearer picture of the amount and quality of exempt accommodation. This includes understanding the strengths and weaknesses of current provision and looking for recommendations on the changes that might be needed to improve exempt accommodation.
Exempt accommodation is a type of accommodation that is used to house a range of people with support needs, such as people with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, mental health problems, homeless people with housing support needs, people who have been at risk of domestic abuse, prison leavers, and those recovering from alcohol and drug addiction.
Given that Support Solutions UK are experienced advisors on Supported Housing compliance and revenue finance optimisation for this type of accommodation, we feel that we are extremely well placed to predict and advise on future developments with the parliamentary enquiry.
Facts & Figures
Freedom of Information data obtained by Crisis shows that as of May 2021 there were 153,701 households in exempt accommodation in England, an increase of 61.5% since 2016. It also revealed that at least £816m was spent by government on exempt accommodation in the last financial year alone.
The Regulator of Social Housing has issued non-compliant regulatory judgements or notices against thirteen providers. Regulatory judgements and notices are the regulator’s official view of a provider which are published to show how well registered providers are performing against the regulatory standards.
What happens if the Regulatory standard is not met?
Upon inspection, the regulator will issue a judgement on their assessment.
- A ‘compliant’ judgement is reflected in the regulators inspection report as having ‘Met the standard’
- A ‘non-compliant’ judgement is reflected in the regulators inspection report as‘Action needed’.
Where action is needed the regulator will act quickly, working closely with commissioners of services and others, and use enforcement powers.
There are 2 types of regulatory notice:
- Regulatory notices (economic standards) are normally published when the regulator has evidence that a provider with fewer than 1,000 units is not compliant with an economic standard. In some cases they may publish a regulatory notice relating to the economic standards for larger providers.
- Regulatory notices (consumer standards) are published to set out the regulators findings when any registered provider has breached a consumer standard and as a result the regulator judge that there is actual or potential serious harm to tenants.
When being assessed by the regulator there is a grading process that is used. The regulator looks at Governance and Viability and uses the following information to grade the provider:
||The provider meets the regulators governance requirements
||The provider meets the regulators governance requirements but needs to improve some aspects of its governance arrangements to support continued compliance.
||The provider does not meet the regulators governance requirements. There are issues of serious regulatory concern and in agreement with us the provider is working to improve its position.
||The provider does not meet the regulators governance requirements. There are issues of serious regulatory concern and the provider is subject to regulatory intervention or enforcement action.
||The provider meets the regulators viability requirements and has the financial capacity to deal with a wide range of adverse scenarios.
||The provider meets the regulators viability requirements. It has the financial capacity to deal with a reasonable range of adverse scenarios but needs to manage material risks to ensure continued compliance.
||The provider does not meet the regulators viability requirements. There are issues of serious regulatory concern and, in agreement with us, the provider is working to improve its position.
||The provider does not meet the regulators viability requirements. There are issues of serious regulatory concern and the provider is subject to regulatory intervention or enforcement action.
The Benefits of Exempt Accommodation
When provided at a decent standard and with proper support, exempt accommodation can be a lifeline for extremely vulnerable people and a vital piece of the social housing landscape. This was the view of Clive Betts, Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee.
It is the view of Support Solutions UK that when exempt accommodation is provided to a decent standard advantages in doing so include:
- Vulnerable people who need support are able to find accommodation that meets their needs and enables them to live as independently as possible.
- Organisations providing supported accommodation are able to cover the higher costs associated with the supported sector.
- Private landlords who lease property to organisations providing supported accommodation are able to obtain a fair market rent for good quality accommodation that is genuinely worth more than the low-to-average rents that Housing Benefit normally covers as the accommodation needs to be maintained and managed much more intensively. Support Solutions UK are experts in this field and can assist in optimising income for Supported Housing accommodation arrangements.
Latest updates on the Parliamentary Enquiry
This year has seen 3 key developments into the enquiry.
March 2022 – the Levelling Up Committee published exempt accommodation written evidence
This began the formal public evidence hearing for its inquiry into exempt accommodation – a type of supported housing that is exempt from Housing Benefit rules limiting rents to particular levels.
The LUHC Committee published 106 written evidence submissions received from a range of councils, housing associations, charities and other organisations including the National Fire Chiefs Council, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, YMCA, LGA, Crisis, Changing Lives, Manchester City Council, Birmingham City Council, and the Women’s Aid Federation of England. MPs Shabana Mahmood and Preet Kaur Gill also submitted evidence.
The written evidence submissions covered a range of issues concerning the provision, availability, and quality of support and concerns about the quality of housing within exempt accommodation. The submissions also covered issues such as the complex regulatory structures of exempt accommodation, concerns about links to criminal activities, and proposals for ensuring better provision.
April 2022 – the Levelling Up Committee held an exempt accommodation evidence hearing
The hearing covered issues including the quality of exempt accommodation and support for residents, including those who have been victims of domestic abuse. The evidence hearing also examined the impact on local neighbourhoods, regulation, the performance of registered providers, and views on potential reforms and the evaluation of the five pilots.
The LUHC’s Committee’s inquiry followed reports, including from the West Midlands, of unscrupulous landlords failing to provide the support and care that vulnerable tenants need, or to maintain the properties to a decent standard.
Witnesses at the hearing included representatives from charities and organisations working within the exempt accommodation sector, and other concerned parties, including Crisis, Women’s Aid Federation of England, Commonweal Housing, Concept Housing Association, YMCA England and Wales, and St Petrocs.
July 2022 – the Levelling Up Committee and DWP questioned
On Monday 4 July the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee concluded the public evidence sessions for its inquiry into exempt accommodation
The LUHC Committee heard from Eddie Hughes MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing), DLUHC and David Rutley MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Welfare Delivery), DWP.
The meeting covered issues including the experiences of residents of exempt accommodation, why exempt accommodation use has increased in recent years, and questions around improving the support provided to residents. It also examined issues regarding regulation, planning and neighbourhoods and the role of local authorities.
What does the future of Supported Housing look like?
Ø Supporting vulnerable people in society continues to be a major priority for government and supported housing provides a pivotal role in helping vulnerable people to live independently or to recover from a crisis such as homelessness
Ø The government continues to be committed to ensuring that supported housing is of a good quality and meets the needs of its residents. What is important is that the government intends to bring forward a package of measures to put an end to minority of unscrupulous supported housing landlords that are deemed to be exploiting some of the most vulnerable people in society.
Ø The government are in the process of developing a supported housing package and to do this are working alongside key government departments and the supported housing sector with the introduction of new measures being implemented as and when parliamentary time allows
What industry measures is the government’s package likely to include?
1. There are likely to be standards for the support provided to residents to ensure that these people receive good quality support that they expect and deserve in order to live as independently as they can and achieve their personal goals
2. There are likely to be new powers that local authorities can utilise and enforce in order to better manage their local supported housing market and to ensure that rogue landlords cannot exploit the system to the detriment of vulnerable residents at the expense of the taxpayer
3. There are likely to be changes to housing benefit regulations that will seek to define care, support and supervision to improve the quality and value for money across all specified supported housing provision
The Supported Housing Improvement Programme
The government has said that they are committed to providing £20 million for a supported housing improvement programme. It will be a three year programme and will be open to bids from all local authorities.
The government sees this improvement programme as being vital to immediately improve and drive standards in some of the worst affected areas.
The government will continue to develop and implement longer term regulatory changes in due course.
It remains to be seen what the enquiry will conclude. Keep your eyes peeled for any further updates !!!
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