The LGA broadly welcomes the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill, which would make provision about the regulation of supported exempt accommodation; make provision about local authority oversight of, and enforcement powers relating to, the provision of supported exempt accommodation; and for connected purposes.
- The LGA broadly welcomes the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill, which would make provision about the regulation of supported exempt accommodation; make provision about local authority oversight of, and enforcement powers relating to, the provision of supported exempt accommodation; and for connected purposes.
- As we highlighted to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, councils have been concerned for some time now that a minority of exempt accommodation providers operating across the country fall short in providing good quality, personalised support for people in vulnerable circumstances. This includes people who are homeless and need additional mental health or substance misuse support, people fleeing domestic abuse, prison leavers, care leavers and people leaving national asylum seeker services.
- Increased demand for exempt accommodation – combined with the funding model for supported housing, outdated Housing Benefit regulations, a lack of local oversight and planning powers and a weak national regulatory framework – have created the conditions for a minority of unscrupulous non-commissioned providers to take advantage of the higher rents that can be charged for exempt accommodation to maximise financial gain for private investors.
- This has a significant and detrimental impact on the lives of the people who live in poor-quality housing without the right level of support, and the wider community, as well as a cost to the public purse. Currently councils have very limited levers to control exempt accommodation quality and over-supply in their communities.
- The LGA wants to see a locally-led fully funded oversight and enforcement regime for exempt accommodation within a strengthened national regulatory framework. This should include a requirement for all exempt accommodation providers to be Registered Providers. This will ensure that councils’ responses can be tailored to the challenges they face and the contexts of local housing markets and demand.
- Most councils’ concerns about non-commissioned exempt accommodation could also be addressed by establishing council control over all referrals into exempt accommodation supported housing in their area.
- We welcome measures that would enable councils to introduce licensing schemes. We have previously lobbied for the introduction of an accreditation or licensing scheme that is linked to a quality standard and is reflective of individual support needs. The ability to introduce licensing schemes would mean that exempt accommodation status would be subject to council approval and conditional on good quality and meeting the individual’s support needs.
- We are pleased the Bill includes a section that will ensure that a person leaving supported exempted accommodation will not be treated as intentionally homelessness, where the reason for leaving relates to the standard of the accommodation or care, support or supervision provided, and the accommodation does not meet the National Supported Housing Standards. This also aligns with upcoming renter’s reform proposals and homelessness legislation which seeks to ensure households are not penalised for reporting poor quality housing.
- We do have some concerns about the potential capacity challenges for councils if new responsibilities are introduced as a result of the Bill. For instance, the requirement to produce a Local Supported Housing Strategy, the need to gather and share information, and licensing will count as new burdens and will need to be funded as such. We would welcome clarification on whether funding for this is included in the £20 million announced as a part of the Bill.
- Significant resource will need to be given to a licensing scheme and enforcement of new National Supported Housing Standards. Even where new burdens funding is provided, there may be challenges in terms of ensuring sufficient staffing, particularly given existing workforce challenges.
Amendments 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 tabled by Bob Blackman would ensure Local Authorities are named as consultees on the Bill.
- The LGA supports this amendment. We are supportive of replacing references to the Local Government Association with local authorities in England as consultees on licensing regulations and the National Supported Housing Standards as this will ensure that local authorities, as main delivery partners, are primarily consulted with on elements they will be responsible for enforcing.
- We would still be keen to work with colleagues across central government, local authorities and accommodation providers to support any future consultation work.
Amendment 1 tabled by Clive Betts MP would give local housing authorities the power to introduce a scheme to enforce the National Supported Housing Standards
- The LGA supports this amendment. We are broadly supportive of extra powers to enforce National Supported Housing Standards. We have previously called for strengthened local oversight and enforcement. This will save money for the public purse by eradicating unreasonably high rents, ensuring people’s support needs are met and mitigate the impacts of poor provision.
- However, significant resource will need to be given to a licensing scheme and enforcement of new National Supported Housing Standards. Even where new burdens funding is provided, there may be challenges in terms of ensuring sufficient staffing, particularly given existing workforce challenges.
Amendments 2 and 4 tabled by Clive Betts would require Secretary of State to produce a progress report after one year if certain powers are yet to be exercised
- The LGA supports both amendments. We would welcome and support a progress report from the Secretary of State in the event that after a period of one year the powers outlined (to prepare and publish “National Supported Housing Standards” and to make provision about the sharing of information relating to supported exempt accommodation) have yet to be exercised.
Amendment 3 tabled by Clive Betts ensures that assessing the needs of persons who are residents/potential residents is a condition that may be attached to a license.
- The LGA supports this amendment. People living in supported accommodation can be vulnerable for a number of reasons including domestic abuse survivors, those recovering from alcohol and drug addiction, rough sleepers, care leavers, and asylum seekers and refugees. Needs assessments ensure that the support offered is appropriate, person-centered, and holistic.
- A requirement to assess needs also ensures that those with the biggest need can be prioritised. We have previously called for establishing council control over all referrals into exempt accommodation supported housing in their area, for example through a single referral ‘hub’ involving county councils and district councils working closely together in two-tier areas. This would enable councils to ensure that new provision is established to meet local need and would deal with issues such as preventing ‘self-referrals’ or providers giving a home to people from other council areas without sharing vital information.
Amendment NC1 tabled by Clive Betts would require the Secretary of State to consult on the establishment of a national regulator of supported exempt accommodation.
- The LGA supports this amendment. Currently an exempt accommodation provider can set up and operate outside of the regulatory framework with neither councils, the Care Quality Commission (unless social care is commissioned) nor the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) having sufficient oversight powers. This regulatory gap is a further incentive for the minority of providers who use exempt accommodation status to maximise income while delivering poor quality services for their residents. Consulting with stakeholders, including local authorities, on the establishment of a national regulator will ensure gaps in provision are appropriately identified.