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GOVERNMENT LISTENS TO SHELTERED HOUSING SECTOR

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The range of services in sheltered accommodation which will be met ...
The range of services in sheltered accommodation which will be met

under the Transitional Housing Benefit Scheme have been widened.

Regulations defining the scheme were laid by the department of social

security today.

The change is a direct response to consultation with local authority

associations and recommendations by the social security advisory

committee.

This wider definition will mean that accommodation with a

non-resident warden will not need a commonroom to be considered

eligible for support service funding. This will ensure that some

services which may otherwise have been excluded from funding under

the Transitional Housing Benefit Scheme will now be funded.

The regulations will introduce the Transitional Housing Benefit

Scheme for Supported Accommodation from April 2000. The scheme will

widen current provision for funding support services. It paves the

way for the long term supporting people arrangements which will be

introduced from April 2003.

Social security minister Angela Eagle said:

'Consultation has shown that there is strong support for the

principles of the Supporting People arrangements and the fact that

the provision of support services will be placed on a stable footing

for the first time.

I am pleased that the department has been able to respond to the

views expressed by interested parties on services included under the

scheme. This demonstrates our commitment to listen to and work with

stakeholders in developing workable policies.'

The aim of the transitional scheme is to ensure that stable funding

is maintained for support services during the transitional period. It

will also allow the information needed to implement the long term

arrangements to be gathered.

Providers of support services will have a key role to play between

now and April 2000 in preparing for the Transitional Housing Benefit

Scheme.

The government is to run an information campaign to ensure that

providers are kept fully informed of the changes. This will include

a series of seminars across Great Britain this autumn.

NOTES

1. The inter-departmental review on supported housing was set up in

1996, and charged with finding sustainable, long term funding

arrangements for support services for vulnerable people.

2. The departments taking part in the review were: The Scottish

Office; Welsh Office; Department for Education and Employment;

Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions; Department of

Health; Home Office; The Treasury; Drugs Unit; Women's Unit.

Decisions on implementation of the long-term arrangements in Scotland

and Wales will fall to the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly.

3. Housing benefit is an income-related benefit which helps people

on low incomes meet the cost of rented accommodation. It can pay up

to 100 per cent of rent, depending on the claimant's circumstances.

It is administered by local authorities on behalf of the DSS.

4. Supported housing providesaccommodation and services to

vulnerable people, such as the elderly, and those with learning

difficulties and mental health problems. Such services may include

the general support, counselling and supervision that enable the

individual to live with some measure of independence in the

community.

5. Housing benefit can help meet rent, strictly limited specific

service charges, and other charges relating to 'the provision of

adequate accommodation', ie charges which relate to the fabric of

the dwelling. There are exemptions to this rule. For example,

charges for general counselling and support are eligible in certain

specific circumstances.

6. A divisional court judgement in July 1997 (upheld by the court of

appeal in July 1998) confirmed the view of the DSS that only those

service charges for general counselling and support which relate to

the fabric of the dwelling satisfy the basic criteria for housing

benefit eligibility, in that they relate to 'the provision of

adequate accommodation'.

7. The DSS believed that many local authorities may have adopted a

wider interpretation of 'the provision of adequate accommodation'

than permitted under the court ruling. In order to protect the

supported accommodation sector, the secretary of state introduced

interim regulations on 18 August 1997 which enable housing benefit to

meet all reasonable charges for general counselling and support in

'existing supported accommodation' which was open on that date. Other

supported accommodation is subject to the normal rules. The interim

regulations have been extended to 31 March 2000.

8. The Transitional Housing Benefit Scheme will pave the way for the

long-term Supporting People funding arrangements. Supporting People

will replace the current, complicated funding arrangements for

vulnerable people, and will be clear and practical, allowing local

authorities to respond to local needs in a more integrated way.

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