In the Spending Review last autumn the Government announced some changes to Housing Benefit that haven’t had much attention, but could cause some serious problems for vulnerable people.
Housing benefit for social tenants will be capped in line with Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates – the amount of benefit claimants are entitled to in the private rented sector.
However the Government have completely neglected supported housing schemes. This housing aimed at vulnerable, homeless, disabled and older people is specially catered for their needs and often comes with additional services. These people need extra care and support and their housing provides this, but obviously this comes at an extra expense.
If Housing Benefit can no longer be used to cover the extra cost of supported housing we may see people forced out of their homes and into cheaper accommodation that does not have the extra support that helps them to get through the day. Otherwise these vulnerable people will see their own limited incomes hit very hard and their livening standards harmed, or they will become dependent on friends and relatives to help them meet the costs.
Examples of the kinds of housing that could be affected include:
·sheltered accommodation for the elderly;
·specialist accommodation for former members of the armed forces; and
·refuges for victims of domestic violence.
Labour forced a debate in Parliament on this issue in Parliament yesterday afternoon and the Government announced that this change will be delayed until April 2017 while the supported housing sector is consulted.
I am very concerned about what the plans will mean for vulnerable people here in Bolton and across the country unless the Government makes some serious changes. I will be meeting with St Vincent’s Housing Association and Great Places Housing Group over the next few weeks to discuss the impact that this will have on the sector at a time when demand for supported housing is increasing.