Coalition of charities and housing organisations voice concerns over proposed Government changes to housing ‘safety net’
Thursday 06 October 2011
The Government must continue to have a housing ‘safety net’ for the most vulnerable people in society, according to a coalition of charities and housing organisations.
The Government must continue to have a housing ‘safety net’ for the most vulnerable people in society, according to a coalition of charities and housing organisations. Thirty-seven charities and housing organisations have come together to voice their concerns about changes to supported accommodation proposed in the consultation ‘Housing Benefit Reform – Supported Housing’.
In a statement of principles, outlining what a future system of supported housing must have, the coalition state their fears that the changes proposed by the Government will make it harder for people to access supported accommodation.
They say that any changes to these regulations must maintain the principle of supported housing.
The coalition adds that this will have severe implications on the ability of some the most vulnerable people in our society to keep a roof over their heads and live an independent life in the community. The Government estimates that 170,000 people currently depend on this system, 40,000 of which are people with a learning disability.
Previously, under the ‘exempt accommodation rule’, some tenants in supported housing schemes have been able to receive higher Housing Benefit as a reflection of the greater challenges they face in finding suitable accommodation.
The Government is proposing to change the supported housing system so individual with additional housing needs will no longer get a higher amount of Housing Benefit. They will have to request extra funding from cash strapped local authorities. The group is concerned that this will lead to a post code lottery with differences in access to funding.
David Congdon, Mencap head of campaigns and policy, said: “Mencap is concerned that the Government’s proposals will lead to fewer people who rely on this safety net for their independence being able to access such housing due to restrictions on funding. This will mean that individuals will either be moved back into institutions miles away from their friends and families, or that families will be the ones picking up the pieces.”
Sarah Lambert, Head of Policy at the National Autistic Society (NAS) said: "The NAS is concerned about the impact the Government proposals will have on people with autism and other disabilities who may be forced to return to residential care or their family home, because they can no longer afford to live independently with support. Currently only 14% of adults with autism live in their own flat or house with support, despite 37% saying they would like to have this opportunity. The Government pledged to support disabled people to live more independently, but these proposed changes to housing benefit risk severely compromising this.”
Philip Connolly, RNIB campaigns officer (supporting people with sight loss), said: "RNIB recognises that this is an important issue for blind and partially sighted people, and is concerned that the Government's proposals will lead to those who have additional housing needs losing out. The supported housing system ensures that some of the most vulnerable people in our society have somewhere to live that suits their needs and enables them to live more independently in the community."
Alastair Graham, Director of Golden Lane Housing, said: "Golden Lane Housing is very concerned about the potential impact of the Government's proposed changes to supported housing on the most vulnerable people in society. If continued support for existing vulnerable tenants is not guaranteed then the housing of thousands of people could be at risk. The Government's proposals along with other changes to disability benefits will have a massive impact on the people we support."
Alicia Wood, Housing Options lead advisor, said: “The choice and availability of housing for disabled, vulnerable and older people has already had a real setback in the last 12 months because of the changes to disability and housing benefits and reduced spending on social housing. We are concerned that the changes to the ‘exempt accommodation’ rules will mean that people with the most complex housing needs will suffer. By giving discretion to councils rather than a clear entitlement under fair and agreed national criteria will create a post code lottery that will potentially further limit access to housing.”
The ‘Housing Benefit Reform – Supported Housing’ consultation closes on Monday 10 October.
For further information contact Nzinga Cotton on 020 7696 5603 or firstname.lastname@example.org or 07770 656 659 if calling out of hours.
Notes to editors
- About Mencap
There are 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap fights on their behalf, and on behalf of their carers and families, to change laws and improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities, supporting thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want.
We are also the largest service provider of services, information and advice for people with a learning disability across England, Northern Ireland and Wales. See www.mencap.org.uk for more information.
- About learning disability
A learning disability is caused by the way the brain develops before, during or shortly after birth. It is always lifelong and affects someone's intellectual and social development. It used to be called mental handicap but this term is outdated and offensive. Learning disability is NOT a mental illness. The term learning difficulty is often incorrectly used interchangeably with learning disability.