Over the past couple of weeks, there have been various publications regarding supported housing, that I thought would be helpful to summarise in one blog.
The most significant of those was the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act 2023 receiving royal assent at the end of June, so it comes into force on 29 August 2023. The Act sets out a framework for the Secretary of State and individual local authorities to have (as the name suggests!) greater oversight about supported housing generally and within specific local areas. It has been introduced to address concerns about some poor quality supported housing and to ensure better consistency. Specifically, it provides:
- The Secretary of State has to set up a Supported Housing Advisory Panel with representatives of various interested parties to advise on supported exempt accommodation;
- Local housing authorities are required to undertake a review of supported exempt accommodation and prepare and publish a local supported housing strategy (to be reviewed every five years);
- The Secretary of State may publish National Supported Housing Standards (which would set out minimum requirements) and potentially introduce a licensing regime with a view to securing any such minimum requirements. I strongly suspect the Secretary of State will take advantage of these powers. Consultation will be required about any proposed licensing requirements;
- A person will not become intentionally homeless if they have left supported exempt accommodation because of the accommodation or the care, support or supervision did not meet the new national standards;
- That within three years of any licensing scheme coming into force, there will be a planning review to establish if a specific use category is required for supported housing and to review the operation of the licence scheme; and
- For sharing of information between the Secretary of State, local authorities, PRPs and the Regulator of Social Housing about supported exempt housing (a specific strand of supported housing).
The Act very much sets out the framework, with more detail expected under regulations to be published (and consulted upon in some cases) in due course.
On 21 June, the Government also published its response to Select Committee's report on exempt accommodation. As a reminder, exempt accommodation is a type of supported housing where there are fewer restrictions in Housing Benefit payments (so typically claims will be higher) - the specific definition set out in Housing Benefit Regulations must be met. There has been less press attention on exempt accommodation in recent years, reflecting a poor standard in a minority of schemes/providers.
The Select Committee, which heard a wide range of evidence, made a number of recommendations. Having read through the response I did feel that the majority of responses from the Government were either that (i) changes had already been implemented, or (ii) change would come from the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill (as it was as the time the response was published). So it will be interesting to see whether the Act (and the regulations that will be passed under it to provide the detail) will achieve all that the Government hopes it will.
And last, but not least, most recently the Learning Disability and Autism Housing Network together with Housing LIN have published their report 'Supported housing for people with learning disabilities and autistic people in England'. This report sets out the key findings regarding accommodation for those with learning disabilities and autism with the intention that the evidence can be used to inform and influence future government policy. It clearly highlights the shortfall in supported housing generally and specifically for these individuals, as well as the huge difference supported housing can help play in enabling these individuals to live independently.
Supported housing is complex because it covers such a breadth of support needs, with different requirements for that range of needs and of course the individuals. Hopefully, these steps (a new framework, greater oversight and important research clearly evidencing need) will all be positive steps forward to creating a sustainable model that will work in the long-term and most importantly provide safe, quality housing for individuals with support needs.