Numerous charities have been in close discussion with the Department for Work and Pensions to resolve challenges of Universal Credit and define ‘exempt accommodation’.
Homeless Link, Sitra, Women’s Aid, National Housing Federation and the Charted Institute of Housing have been in close discussion with DWP to try and identify a solution to the affect Universal Credit is having and to define exempt accommodation.
The group discussed that currently the cost of supported accommodation, hostels and shelters, which are important for supporting those with vulnerabilities, is provided by local authorities under the Housing Benefit system. The funding is able to be paid by councils to homelessness agencies on a weekly basis, if clients only stayed for a short period of time.
What the group are worried about is that the introduction of Universal Credit threatens this structure. Under the new proposals many hostels could be left without funding for clients who only stayed for short periods of time, meaning the cost of running the hostel would not be met.
In 2012, in response to Homeless Link and others, the Government publicly recognised the need to protect supported housing for people with vulnerabilities from the “unintended consequences” of Universal Credit, reports Homeless Link in a blog post.
One of the proposed ways to do this was by using Benefit Regulations to make some accommodation “exempt”. The meant that some services would be left out of parts of Universal Credit. Homeless Link said their problem with that was that the definition of “exempt accommodation” would not cover up to half of homeless services.
After talks with the government new regulations have been published which address concerns and offer the same protection to almost all homelessness services.
24dash report that a new category labelled “specified accommodation” will be introduced and it will cover:
• Supported accommodation which already meets the definition of exempt accommodation.
• Supported accommodation where the claimant has a) been admitted to receive care, support supervision and b) does indeed receive care, support and supervision.
• Refuges for people fleeing domestic violence.
• Homeless hostels owned or managed by lower-tier or unitary local authorities where care, support or supervision is provided.
Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, said: “Homeless Link and its partners have been working tirelessly to improve the support available to people in supported accommodation and to ensure that everyone is given a fair deal. This announcement is great news and should be welcomed by all in the sector. Under the existing system, many accommodation providers faced the real risk of closure, potentially leaving some of society’s most vulnerable people with nowhere to turn for help. We look forward to working with homelessness agencies, local authorities and DWP to ensure the new regulations are implemented as successfully as possible.”
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