John has called on the new government to protect supported housing from devastating housing benefit cuts.
On Tuesday 19 July, John and his colleague Jess Phillips wrote to the newly appointed Home Secretary, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government urging them to exempt supported housing from a new crude cap on housing benefit announced in the Autumn Statement last year.
John and Jess said:
“Many of the most vulnerable people in our country – including those with learning disabilities, veterans, the homeless and the frail elderly – face losing their homes.
“Among those worst affected will be survivors of domestic violence. Uncertainty about the future of housing benefit payments is already directly impacting on services planned for the future.
“As they take up the responsibilities of their new roles, we call on Amber Rudd, Damian Green and Sajid Javid to lead a rethink and new approach within government. We urge them to make this a top priority in your new job and act to announce a full exemption for all supported housing from the housing benefit cuts and cap.
“These cuts will be a catastrophe for those least able to afford it. Without this specialist housing, many of the most vulnerable will have nowhere to turn.”
On Wednesday 20 July, John spoke in the opposition day debate on supported housing in which he highlighted the cases of Rotherham supported accommodation providers, Target Housing and Rush House. Together, those two organisations look after over 100 vulnerable people, but they say that they will be losing out by £8,000 a week and will have to close their doors and their schemes, leaving the people with nowhere else to go.
WATCH his speech here:
You can also read the speech here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2016-07-20/debates/16072027000001/SupportedHousingBenefit#contribution-16072028000077
John first highlighted the damaging consequences of this cap in December last year. A wide range of charities and campaign groups are now asking new Ministers to think again, or face the mass closure of specialist accommodation for the most vulnerable – including women fleeing domestic violence, the homeless, and the frail elderly. As Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning, he called the first opposition day debate on these proposed changes earlier this year (on Wednesday 27 January).
Under plans announced by George Osborne in the small print of last year’s Autumn Statement, housing benefit for social tenants will be capped at the ‘local housing allowance’ for private sector tenants. Government statistics suggest these changes will cap housing support for at least 400,000 people and charities say the move will close thousands of specialist supported homes across the country.
Specialist supported housing is generally more expensive to run than other types of accommodation because of the support needs of its tenants and so generally charges higher rents, which are often met by housing benefit. The relevant housing benefit changes were detailed in the small-print of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and propose a new low cap on housing benefit costs across all types of social housing, equivalent to the local housing allowance rate for private rented tenants, without any concession for supported accommodation. It was originally announced that it would affect all new tenancies signed after April 2016, and come into force from April 2018. However, it is now not set to affect new tenancies signed before April 2017.
After wide pressure from all Parties, charities and housing providers, the last government announced a year-long delay in implementation after. This period offers an opportunity for the government to re-think their policy.