I have received a number of emails about the Government’s plans to cap Housing Benefit for people living in supported housing, and the related campaign by Rethink Mental Illness.
Supported housing plays an important role in providing secure, supported accommodation to thousands of vulnerable people, including those affected by mental health problems. I share concerns about the impact of the Conservative Government's proposals on future funding for the supported housing sector.
In 2015, it was announced that a cap would be introduced on the amount of rent that Housing Benefit will cover in the social sector. It will mean that Housing Benefit cannot be higher than the Local Housing Allowance rate for private rent tenants. Rethink has highlighted that around 1 in 5 people affected by severe mental illness live in supported housing. I know that Rethink has also raised concerns that the Conservative Government's plans put this provision at risk. I share these concerns.
The measure was due to apply to tenancies signed after 1st April 2016, and come into force from 1st April 2018 onwards for everyone else. However, in March 2016, following pressure from Labour it was announced that there would be a one-year exemption for tenants of supported housing. In July 2016, there was an Opposition Day debate in the House of Commons where Labour called on the Conservative Government to fully exempt supported housing from its cuts to Housing Benefit. We called for the Conservative Government to consult with supported housing providers in order to identify ways in which all vulnerable people who need supported housing can access it.
In September 2016, the Conservative Government confirmed that it would be deferring application of Local Housing Allowance rates to social rents for supported housing further: until 2019/2020. At this point it would introduce a new funding model, which will ensure the sector continues to be funded at current levels. The Conservative Government has committed to providing ring-fenced 'top-up funds' through local authorities to ensure that vulnerable people continue to be supported. In November 2016, a consultation was launched to develop the details for this new funding model. The consultation closes on 13th February and I will follow the outcome of this closely.
I am concerned that the Conservative Government has delayed detailing its cuts to supported housing, which will leave tens of thousands of the most vulnerable people without the certainty they need to live their lives. The continuous delays in outlining a complete package of support for the supported housing sector are unacceptable.
It is vital that supported housing is fully exempt from the cuts and my Labour colleagues and I will continue to press for this to be the case.