Housing ‘safety net’ needed
Thursday 06 October 2011
Charities fear proposed changes to housing benefit could lead to a postcode lottery
Since July, the Department for Work and Pensions has been seeking views on its plans to change housing benefit for people living in supported housing.
Currently, rules around exempt accommodation mean that people with high support needs receive a higher level of housing benefit. This is used, for example, to pay for any special adaptations or to enable people to live close to their support networks.
Around 170,000 people depend on this system, including 40,000 people with a learning disability.
The consultation, which closes on 10 October, includes a proposal to replace the exempt accommodation rules with a locally managed housing fund.
Instead of receiving a higher level of housing benefit, those with additional housing needs will have to request extra funding from their local authority.
Today (6 October), 37 charities and housing organisations have come together to warn that the proposed changes could lead to a postcode lottery.
The group, which includes Mencap, the National Autistic Society, Scope and Golden Lane Housing, has outlined five principles that should be at the heart of supported housing:
- choice and control for disabled people
- entitlementand a right to higher housing benefit
- meeting the real cost of providing property for vulnerable people
- equality and the right to independent living
- protection of current tenants.
Mencap has welcomed the consultation’s aim of simplifying the system and making it easier to understand and administer.
However, David Congdon, Mencap’s head of campaigns and policy, warned: “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.”