April 2014 Important Universal Credit Updates, Temporary & Supported Housing

The DWP has issued new housing benefit guidance in relation to universal credit for claimants in temporary accommodation.

Claimants already in receipt of Universal Credit who report a change of circumstances resulting in their becoming homeless and placed in temporary accommodation, will continue to receive Universal Credit, including a rental element for their accommodation. The rental element will be based on the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate for the household size or the actual rent, whichever is the lowest with the rent paid directly to the claimant. The benefit cap will apply, as will the shared accommodation rate.  In relation to supported housing, ministers announced in 2012 that, as a short term measure, help with housing costs for those living in “exempt accommodation” would be provided outside their Universal Credit award through Housing Benefit (HB) and that HB in respect of that accommodation would be excluded when applying the benefit cap.

Regulations to provide for help with housing costs through HB came into effect from 28 October 20131.

In April 2013,Government confirmed their intention to extend this protection to other supported housing that, although not materially different to that which falls within the current definition, is subject to the welfare reforms.

No change has been made to the definition of “exempt accommodation”. The amendments are intended primarily to protect those in supported housing who are not already covered by the definition of “exempt accommodation” (and therefore do not benefit from the current exemptions) and are most likely to be affected by the welfare reforms.

There are now four categories of supported housing that are included in the new definition of “specified accommodation” being introduced.

Exempt accommodation -the existing exclusion in HB of “exempt accommodation” is retained as one of the categories in the new definition. It covers either: a resettlement place; or accommodation which is 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.

Managed properties - designed to cover those cases which fall out of the current “exempt accommodation” definition solely because the care isn't provided by the landlord or on their behalf. This is often due to the nature of the funding/care structures put in place. This category relies, as now, on the property being provided by one of the specified social and third sector organisations and on the claimant being admitted to the dwelling to receive the care, support or supervision being provided. This looks to retain the conditionality of receiving support with occupying the home.

Much supported housing could be identified by it being commissioned by, or either designed or designated as such by local government or other statutory bodies. However, these can only be factors among others in the LA deciding whether the property is “specified accommodation”. As ever the LA must make a decision on the facts. This definition doesn’t cover cases of floating support where the property is standard social or third sector housing where the care, support or supervision being provided is not connected with living in the home.

Refuges - the third category looks to protect the rents of both third and social sector refuges. This is achieved through identifying the provider type as well as the reason why the person is living in the property (i.e. that they are fleeing domestic violence) and that this is a temporary arrangement.

 Hostels - covers LA hostels that provide care, support or supervision. This relies on the property not being self-contained. The existing definition of "hostel" identifies properties specialising in the higher need individuals most likely to need the care, support or supervision often available in "hostels".

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