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What is exempt supported accommodation?

Supported accommodation is a broad term which describes a range of housing types. Exempt accommodation is supported housing which is exempt from certain Housing Benefit provisions. It is defined as:

  • a resettlement place; or
  • accommodation provided by a county council, housing association, registered charity or voluntary organisation where that body or person acting on their behalf provides the claimant with care, support or supervision.

Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, has said:

The exempt system was an acknowledgement that the costs of managing shared, supported housing could be higher than the norm, and that not for profit organisations’ supported housing services may be unviable if benefit levels were limited using the same rules that applied to mainstream private renting.

What are the issues?

There are concerns that the sector is under-regulated. There’s a view that the growth of exempt provision “is associated with investors looking to maximise returns using the higher rents permitted by the exempt Housing Benefit provisions.” Some providers are argued to be putting profit before the needs of residents, resulting in poor housing conditions and ineffective care and support for vulnerable residents.

Residents living nears to some units of exempt accommodation complain about its detrimental impact where vulnerable residents are not provided with adequate support.

Action to address the issues

  • On 20 October 2020, the Government published Supported housing: national statement of expectations, which set out a vision for the planning, commissioning and delivery of supported housing for the first time.
  • Also in October 2020, five pilots were established in Birmingham; Blackburn; Blackpool; Bristol; and Hull to improve quality; enforcement; oversight; and value for money in the sector. They focused on short-term, non-commissioned exempt supported accommodation. An independent evaluation of the pilots was published on 7 April 2022.
  • On 17 March 2022, then Minister, Eddie Hughes, issued a written statement setting out Government plans for supported exempt housing. This included the introduction of minimum standards of support; changes to Housing Benefit regulations to clarify the definition of care, support and supervision; new powers for local authorities to better manage their local supported housing market and “ensure rogue landlords cannot exploit the system”.
  • £20 million from the Supported Housing Improvement Programme has been awarded to 26 local authorities from 2022 to 2025 to target quality and value for money in supported housing.
  • Bob Blackman MP came seventh in the private member’s bill ballot and introduced the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill on 15 June 2022. The Bill had cross-party support and obtained Royal Assent on 29 June 2023. Its provisions came into force on 29 August 2023. The Act brings forward national standards for support and gives local authorities power to set up licensing schemes to tackle poor quality supported housing in their area.
  • The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) is implementing more rigorous oversight of the sector, resulting in more non-compliant regulatory judgements. The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 is aimed at strengthening overall regulation in the social housing sector.
  • The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities select committee launched an inquiry into exempt accommodation on 7 December 2021. The Committee’s report was published on 27 October 2022. The Government response was published on 21 June 2023.

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