There are now two important policy drivers for action research on exempt accommodation. These policy changes are stimulating interest from statutory authorities, referral agencies and landlords:
1. The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017
This Act was implemented on April 3rd 2018, three weeks before fieldwork for the Phase One project began. This Act is the biggest change to the rights of homeless people for over fifteen years and for the first time bolsters and enhances statutory duties towards those who would previously have been deemed ‘non priority’ or ‘single homeless’ and provided with minimal to no advice and support. The Act introduces a ‘duty to prevent’ homelessness and a ‘duty to relieve’ homelessness and places an emphasis on prevention, joint working and more person-centred or client-focussed casework.
From October 2018, the Act will introduce a ‘duty to refer’, placing a duty on a range of statutory agencies to refer, with consent, those identified as at risk of homelessness within 56 days to the local authority of that individual’s choice. This will significantly increase the already high demand from multiplicity of agencies to secure access to private rented sector accommodation in the city for their clients.
Carrying out the project at an early stage of implementation for such a significant piece of legislation has provided a fascinating and timely dimension to the fieldwork, allowing for the incorporation of a wide range of reactions, considerations and views towards emerging policy and practice change brought about by the Act. Although it is too early during the Act’s implementation to establish an evidence base of impact, it is likely that reformed ways of working and engagement will impact upon referral processes, local authority engagement with the ‘exempt’ sub-sector, stakeholder responses to ‘single homeless’ client groups and the role of supported, exempt HMOs within an individual’s housing ‘plan’ or ‘pathway
Brill, C. (2017, April 27). Homelessness Reduction Act receives Royal Assent
2. Consultation Paper and Response on Funding Supported Housing
In August 2018 the Government announces the proposed development of a ‘robust oversight regime’ for supported housing together with a full review of how housing and support currently fit together. The latter is being led by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government following a series of consultations between 2016 and 2018 on the future funding of supported housing.
Funding Supported Housing: Policy Statement and Consultation (PDF)
2018 Policy Response
Proposed Funding changes to supported housing from 2020
NB: During the fieldwork for Phase One, the proposals outlined below were expected to be implemented by 2020. However, on August 9th, 2018 the government announced a reversal of their proposals, stating that funding for all supported housing would remain within the existing benefits system.
The original proposed changes would have had a significant impact on the ‘exempt’ sub-sector in Birmingham. Before August 2018 it had been expected that the funding for all accommodation providing a level of care, support and supervision, and classed as ‘short term’, would be removed from the Housing Benefit system, with the relevant budgets devolved by the Department of Work and Pensions to local authorities to administer based on a much more comprehensive needs assessment than has operated hitherto. This policy change would have had a wide-ranging impact on the ‘exempt’ accommodation sub-sector in Birmingham, bringing what is currently a largely disjointed, hidden and relatively unregulated sector under the purview of the local authority. Such a significant potential policy change meant that the current and proposed research and good practice work around this sub-sector would have direct relevance for the new funding regime expected by April 2020.
The policy reversal in August 2018 does not lessen any of the underlying concerns about the sector but does change the potential mechanisms for reform. Our work to date has allowed for the incorporation of the thoughts, considerations and hopes of a large range of stakeholders. Later stages of the project will build on the stakeholder perspectives currently being analysed (which include resident and landlord perspectives) and will aim to provide a direct voice for residents in monitoring and improvement of support and property management standards and a collaborative vehicle for peer improvement by landlords alongside the anticipated improved arrangements for commissioning and regulation of the sector.