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Welsh Govt calls for supported housing cap exemption

Welsh Government is urging Westminster to protect vulnerable tenants in supported accommodation from its proposed new housing benefit cap.

The UK Government announced plans in the Spending Review to cap rent support for social housing tenants at local housing allowance rates that apply to the private rented sector.

That will have a dire impact on supported accommodation schemes for older people, homeless people and people with disabilities because they typically charge higher rents to reflect the costs of care, support and supervision.

Welsh Government argues that will not just leave vulnerable people unable to pay their rent and at risk of becoming homeless but also affect the financial viability of existing projects and stop providers going ahead with new schemes.

Communities and tackling poverty minister Lesley Griffiths has written to UK welfare reform minister Lord Freud urging him to exempt supported housing from the changes.

She said:

‘Supported housing plays a vital role in caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. The sector provides far more than simply accommodation – it offers a whole range of support, from 24-hour emergency response services for older people, to therapy for people suffering from mental health problems.

‘This level of support means rents are typically higher than in the public sector. To punish vulnerable tenants for the services they need to live independently would be unjust and counterproductive. I understand the policy is still being formulated, and with this in mind I have written to Lord Freud to urge him to exempt supported housing from the proposed changes.’

Following widespread protests in England, the UK Government has agreed to help supported housing by delaying the 1% rent cut that applies to all social housing. However, it has so far resisted calls for an exemption for the LHA cap. English housing minister Brandon Lewis said in a written answer this week:

‘The supported housing sector provides vital support for some of our country’s most vulnerable people. The Government is currently conducting a review of supported housing to ensure we have accurate and up to date information about services being provided. We are committed to ensuring the supported housing sector is on secure financial footing and will continue to keep this under review to provide certainity for the sector.’

As things the cap will apply to tenancies signed after 1 Aprl, 2016 and will start in April 2018. MPs debating the issue at Westminster last week also raised the plight of single people under 35, who face the prospect of their housing benefit being capped at the LHA shared accommodation rate.

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