I know that there is some concern about changes to Housing Benefit and the equivalent in Universal Credit from April 2018.
The changes to Housing Benefit announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement involve aligning the rules for claimants in the social sector with those for claimants renting privately. Over the last five years, average social rent rises have been double those for private sector accommodation. I do not think it is fair for social landlords to consistently raise rents knowing the taxpayer will pick up the bill, while those renting privately have limits on the amount of rent they can claim for.
It is the case thought that the Government recognises the importance of ensuring those who are providing supported accommodation to some of the most vulnerable members of our society receive appropriate protections. Government departments will be working closely together and listening carefully to the concerns raised, to make sure that the right protections are in place.
The Government has commissioned an extensive review into supported housing to get an accurate picture of the sector’s needs, and will report back in due course. This will help to determine how best to make sure the appropriate protections are in place, and the Government is keen to ensure workable and sustainable solutions for the supported housing sector are worked out. The details on this policy are still being considered. Reductions will not apply until April 2018 and the change will only apply to new or renewed tenancies from April 2016; the then-Chancellor confirmed in the 2016 Budget that for supported accommodation this will be delayed until April 2017 to allow time for the review to be considered.
On the specific issue of domestic violence refuges, the Government is working to ensure the sector is able to maintain and improve the essential services it provides.The Government committed £40 million in the last Autumn Statement to services for victims of domestic abuse, which is a tripling of the funding compared to the previous four years. The Government also published a renewed Violence Against Women and Girls strategy in March this year, and in conducting the supported housing review, Ministers will of course consider the specific issues which refuges face.