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Changes to housing benefit and universal credit 19.02.14

Update on exempt accommodation – February 2014

On 12 February 2014 the Welfare Reform Minister, Lord Freud, appeared in front of the Work and Pensions Select Committee in the House of Commons. He was asked about exempt supported accommodation and this is what he said:
 

Q130   Glenda Jackson: The Chair asked the Prime Minister at the Liaison Committee, and the Prime Minister gave a promise essentially to look again at progress with amending regulations to address the anomalies in the treatment of different types of supported accommodation, for example, women’s refuges and hostels, many of which are not exempt from the benefit cap or the bedroom tax. The Prime Minister himself told us that you would be in a position to update us on progress with these regulations today. Would you be good enough to afford us with that information?   

Lord Freud: Yes, I am very grateful to have the chance, and this is something that I can tell this Committee for the first time.  We will be defining supported accommodation in a broader way so that it protects more hostels and refuges. The groups that we are looking at are where care and accommodation is provided separately, so that would be brought in together. We have talked to sector representatives as we developed this wider set of regulations. They are comfortable that, of all the provision that had been at risk—and this is because the definition of supported exempt accommodation had been fairly fuzzy, I think, is the best word—we would capture virtually all of it and protect it. 

A link to the transcript of the whole session can be found here


A broader definition that includes virtually all refuges is good news. This represents the results of more than a year’s work for Women’s Aid which has included letters, meetings and written and oral evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee. We will continue to work with DWP and other supported housing sector representatives on this. In the meantime if you have any queries please contact Marilyn Howard.

 


 

Background

Jul 2012 - Women’s Aid has some significant concerns about particular aspects of the draft regulations relating to the implementation of the Welfare Reform Act 2012. These could seriously affect the continued provision of refuge accommodation and the accessibility of safe accommodation for women and children experiencing domestic violence.

Women’s Aid has responded to the consultation to express our views. Our main concerns are that Universal Credit regulations will mean that survivors will receive less housing costs in Universal Credit, and so be unable to pass on the full cost to refuge services. This will result in closures and decimate the refuge network. 

Read our Women's Aid Briefing: Welfare Reform - Universal Credit July 2012

Read our full response to the consultation

Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform at DWP, has written to Polly Neate, Women’s Aid’s Chief Executive Officer, stating that the Government’s intention is to protect supported housing such as refuge services from the benefit cap, bedroom tax and Universal Credit changes. This would help refuge services that have a management agreement with the landlord to provide support. As these arrangements do not fall within the precise definition of ‘exempt accommodation’ DWP is working with a range of stakeholders to develop solutions such as a change to the definition. Women’s Aid welcomes this letter as helpful clarity about the Government’s intentions. Read the letter here.

In addition here is our response to the Department of Work and Pensions consultation on Discretionary Housing Payments.

Read our Response to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee on the introduction of Universal Credit

Women’s Aid has commented on the DWP guidance on personal budgeting support. See the DWP guidance.  With this guidance DWP also published a Local Support Services Framework – read Women’s Aid’s response to this.

Read Women’s Aid’s response to the DWP personal budgeting support guidance.