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Supported Housing

Volume 611: debated on Monday 6 June 2016

5. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of planned reductions in social rents and housing benefit support on supported housing. (905267)

The Government have always been clear that the most vulnerable will be protected and supported through our welfare reforms. Following our review of supported housing, which is due to report shortly, we will continue to work with the sector to ensure that appropriate protections are in place.

That is all very well, but why then do St Mungo’s, Centrepoint, the Salvation Army and the National Housing Federation, to name just a few organisations, all think that the Government’s proposals will hit supported housing hard and will reduce the number of places available? Should the Minister not listen to the people who are providing the service rather than to his own political dogma?

I gently say to the right hon. Gentleman that Howard Sinclair, the chief executive of St Mungo’s Broadway, has said:

“This is a sensible and reasoned decision by the government”.

The chief executive of YMCA England has said that the Government

“has taken appropriate action to protect supported housing.”

We have decided to delay things for a year while we work with the sector to make sure we have a good and well-protected sector in future.

I welcome the Government’s review of supported housing and their commitment to preventing homelessness, both financially in the autumn statement and Budget, and in a likely statutory duty to prevent homelessness. Does that progress not fly in the face of putting a local housing allowance cap on supported housing, which in effect would pull the rug from under very vulnerable tenants who the Government are supporting at the moment?

My hon. Friend rightly points out that the spending review put in £400 million of funding to deliver 8,000 new specialist affordable homes. As I said, the delay of a year is to work with the sector, and the review that we have commissioned jointly with the Department for Work and Pensions will be published shortly. We have made it clear from the beginning that we will ensure that the most vulnerable people are protected and supported through all the reforms.

If the Government continue with their rent and benefit changes it is likely that most supported housing will close, so it is welcome that they have instituted the review. In that review, will the Minister consider an issue that has been raised with the Communities and Local Government Committee as part of its inquiry into homelessness, which is whether, when people who are out of work and homeless go into supported housing, costs are covered through housing benefit? Under current arrangements, people who are in work can find themselves worse off than those who are out of work, so in the review will the Minister consider whether that problem can be rectified, along with the other issues?

The review will consider all issues that affect the sector, and we are working with the sector on that—yes, absolutely, we will take that point on board.

Recently published research by Scottish Women’s Aid in partnership with survivors of domestic abuse in Fife reveals that women and children are often forced to make themselves homeless to be eligible for domestic abuse support. The recently proposed cap on local housing allowance will also have a devastating impact on the future provision of specialist refuge accommodation in Scotland, which is largely in the ownership of local authorities and housing associations. What steps are being taken to protect the provision of support for survivors of domestic abuse under those circumstances?

As the hon. Lady will know—it was outlined a few moments ago by the Secretary of State—we have put extra funding into women’s refuges, and we have introduced a delay of a year while we work with the sector and the review is completed. That review will be published shortly, and all those issues will be taken into account when ensuring that we continue to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

Perhaps the Minister will give us a wee bit more assurance on that. The delay for a year is welcome, but many domestic abuse charities are worried about what will happen at the end of that. They need a bit of certainty and to be able to plan in the years ahead for those vital services on which women and children depend. Can he give us any more certainty about when the review will be published?

First, we have outlined a further £400 million to go into providing 8,000 more homes, which shows our commitment to that sector. We have always been clear that we want to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected, and that the right provision is in place, and that is what the review is about. It will be published shortly, and we will respond to it. That is why the sector has widely welcomed the year’s delay, and as I said earlier, we are working with the sector to protect those most vulnerable people.