Our recent work on non-commissioned exempt accommodation

11 March 2022

On 23 February, a parliamentary debate was tabled by the Labour Party on non-commissioned exempt accommodation. Labour chose this topic ahead of the Birmingham Erdington by-election on 3 March, an area where has where there has been a large increase in the quantity of supported exempt accommodation.

What is non-commissioned exempt accommodation?

  • Non-commissioned exempt accommodation was introduced into Housing Benefit regulations in 1996, defined as: “accommodation which is…provided by a non-metropolitan country council, a housing association, a registered charity or a voluntary organisation where that body or a person acting on its behalf also provides the claimant with care, support or supervision”.
  • This was introduced in acknowledgment of the higher costs associated with certain types of supported accommodation. It is for this reason that residents are allowed to apply for benefits that exceed the Local Housing Allowance.
  • Under this model, rent levels which are higher than private sector Local Housing Allowance Rates can be yielded by providers that meet a regulatory requirement to provide a level of “care, support or supervision” to claimants.

What work are we doing in this area?

The NHF briefed MPs ahead of the debate, setting out members’ concerns about the provision of some exempt accommodation, including property standards, referral routes into schemes, levels of support, and whether some services provide value for money. These problems were highlighted throughout the debate and Khalid Mahood MP referenced the NHF’s concerns directly in his speech. We have called for changes to the oversight and regulatory system which focus on tackling the problematic providers and low-quality provision. These reforms should be enacted alongside a consideration of how to sustain and adequately fund quality services for people who do not have the means to pay for them.

The NHF have also signed a joint open letter coordinated by Commonweal Housing and the Local Government Association, urging the government to take further action on this issue. This letter has been sent to the Secretaries of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and for Work and Pensions. It has been signed by leaders at the five local authorities that have been part of the government’s exempt accommodation pilot scheme, as well as regional mayors, police commissioners and local councillors.