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Supported accommodation to be protected from benefits cap with ring-fenced funding

The uncertain status of supported accommodation has been resolved as the government announced new funding to protect it from the housing benefits cap.

There were initially fears that the cap would threaten the future of the supported accommodation sector, which includes women’s refuges, homeless shelters and dementia accommodation, by forcing over 40% of caps to close.

The government suspended the cap for a year for supported accommodation, but there were calls for the sector to be permanently exempt, especially after it emerged that the cap could force two-thirds of domestic violence shelters to close.

Damian Green, the work and pensions secretary, said: “We know the valuable role that these organisations play in communities across Britain. Women’s refuges or housing for young people with learning disabilities are important parts of the support system for vulnerable people.

“As we build a Britain that works for everyone, not just the privileged few, our new funding model will help those people who need it the most.”

Supported accommodation will now be exempt from the cap until 2019, and then provided with new ring-fenced funding to top up its costs.

The government said this funding will be allocated to devolved administrations, allowing them to “have a more coordinated approach” to supported accommodation and “drive up quality and efficiency”.

In addition, benefit claimants in supported accommodation will be exempt from the lower shared accommodation rate.

Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, said the new funding model would “underpin the provision of safe, stable and supportive places to live for those in need”.

Lord Porter, chair of the LGA, said he was pleased at the news, adding: “While the LGA would normally argue against ring-fencing funding, we understand the government's reasoning in this exceptional case, and feel that the prize here is very much worth that price.

“The LGA will continue to work with government to ensure these changes are implemented in a way that gives providers the certainty they need to invest in supported housing so that we can carry on meeting the needs of vulnerable people, and that they can live in homes that are fit for purpose.”

The LGA had campaigned against the cap for supported accommodation, warning that it was leading to uncertainty about new housing in the sector and make it harder for supported housing to pay for specialised equipment and adaptations.

Today, Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England, said: “As the largest voluntary sector provider of supported housing for young people, it would be difficult for YMCA to over-emphasise how important this issue is for the long-term survival and sustainability of the sector.

“Supported housing providers have been in a state of uncertainty since the initial announcement was made in last year’s Autumn Statement and it is, therefore, positive to see greater clarity going forward.”

Polly Neale, chief executive of Women’s Aid, which campaigned against the cap for women’s shelters, added: “This news will save refuges that otherwise would have closed down, and save countless lives.”

The government also said it would work with Women’s Aid to try to develop a permanent funding model for women’s shelters.

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