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Regulation of supported housing: next steps
Posted on 30/08/23 in NHAS
The Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act 2023 came into force on 29 August 2023. The Act sets out to introduce changes to how supported exempt accommodation is regulated.
What is the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act 2023?
The Act plans to introduce new standards for supported exempt accommodation and make changes to how this type of accommodation is regulated.
The Act was first introduced as a Private Members’ Bill to respond to ongoing reports of problems with the quality of supported exempt accommodation.
What is supported exempt accommodation?
Supported accommodation provides residents with care, supervision or support. It is usually managed by a local authority, housing association, charity or voluntary organisation. It also includes refuges and local authority hostels.
Some supported accommodation is known as ‘exempt’ because it is exempt from the usual caps on housing benefit levels, meaning residents can receive a higher amount of housing benefit than usual. This additional housing benefit usually assists with the costs of providing care and support.
What does the Act do?
The Act allows the government to create new National Supported Housing Standards and introduce licensing regulations.
It also sets out how a new Supported Housing Advisory Panel will work and makes changes to the rules on intentional homelessness when a person leaves accommodation which does not meet national standards.
When do the changes take effect?
The Act came into force on 29 August 2023. The key provisions in the Act require the government to publish regulations or take other steps before these measures take effect.
The exact date these measures will take effect is not currently known.
Why has the Act been introduced?
The Act has been passed as a response to issues with the quality of the accommodation, care and support provided in exempt accommodation. Some providers were seen to place profits over the actual provision of care and support which is an essential part of this kind of accommodation.
The Act was put forward as a Private Members’ Bill in response to these problems. It is unusual for a Private Members' Bill to become law, but the Bill was supported by the government and attracted cross-party support due to the severity of the issues in the exempt accommodation sector.
The nature of exempt accommodation means that residents, and therefore providers, can receive higher amounts of housing benefit than for other types of accommodation. A briefing by Crisis in 2021 found that ‘the poorest quality provision is associated with investors looking to maximise returns using the higher rents permitted by the exempt Housing Benefit provisions’.
In 2022 the Committee for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities found in its investigation into the sector that the experiences of some residents were ‘beyond disgraceful’.
The National Audit Office also conducted a report into the sector in 2022, finding that ‘gaps in regulation enable some providers to offer poor-quality housing with support that does not meet the needs of residents.’
New National Supported Housing Standards and licensing powers
The Act allows the government to create National Supported Housing Standards, which will set out minimum standards for supported exempt accommodation.
The standards could address the type or condition of accommodation, as well as the care or support provided. There is no set date for these standards to be introduced and it is not currently known what the standards will specify.
The Act also gives the government the power to introduce licensing requirements for people who have control of or manage supported exempt accommodation. The government must make regulations with the intention of ensuring that National Supported Housing Standards are met.
Supported Housing Advisory Panel
The Act requires the government to create a Supported Housing Advisory Panel before 29 June 2024. The panel will provide information and advice about supported exempt accommodation to the Secretary of State, local authorities and social services departments.
The panel must include at least one person who represents the interests of different key groups, including:
- social landlords
- local authorities
- social services
- charities providing supported exempt accommodation
- residents of supported exempt accommodation
Supported housing strategies
Local authorities must carry out a review of supported exempt accommodation in their area, and following this publish a supported housing strategy.
The review must include the authority's assessment of the supported exempt accommodation available in its area and the expected needs for this accommodation in the next five years.
The government will publish regulations stating the date by which local authorities must comply with this requirement.
Local housing authorities and social services departments must have regard to the supported housing strategy once it has been published.
Changes to intentional homelessness
The Act will also bring in a change to the law on intentional homelessness.
A local authority can decide that it does not owe a longer-term duty to a homeless applicant if that person has become homeless as a result of:
- something they have done
- something they have failed to do
For example, this might include if a person has left accommodation which was suitable for them to remain.
Section 9 of the Act states that a person is not to be considered intentionally homeless if they leave accommodation which does not meet National Supported Housing Standards.
This provision cannot be enforced until the National Supported Housing Standards are published.
What happens next
The Act provides a legal framework for introducing regulation, but the impact will depend on the regulations published by the government, and ongoing enforcement.
The government intends to start consultation on how the Act will be implemented later in 2023. A further consultation is expected in 2024 with draft regulations.
Issues in exempt accommodation
Committee of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities report: Exempt housing and support services are a ‘complete mess’, says Committee - Committees - UK Parliament
National Audit Office investigation: Investigation into supported housing - National Audit Office (NAO) report
Crisis policy briefing: Crisis Policy Briefing: Exempt Accommodation | Crisis | Together we will end homelessness