been published. Supported accommodation offers services to
tenants with special needs that are not normally found in mainstream
housing. Many of these tenants are in receipt of Housing Benefit.
administration is further complicated if a claimant lives in
supported accommodation because some, but not all, service charges
are eligible for Housing Benefit. For example, service charges which
relate to the fabric of the dwelling are eligible but individual
assistance such as administration of medicine is ineligible. Charges
have to be considered by Housing Benefit officers in order to
determine what is eligible for benefit. Previous research shows that
local authorities, who administer Housing Benefit on behalf of the
Department, deal with these types of claims in different ways.
New research was commissioned as part of an interdepartmental review
of the funding of supported accommodation. It estimated the number
of Housing Benefit recipients in supported accommodation in Great
Britain and the amount of Housing Benefit expenditure used to pay for
services which were ineligible for benefit. An innovative
methodology was devised for the research using data from the
financial year 1996/97.
Little was initially known about the tenants in the supported
accommodation sector in Great Britain, in particular there was no
exhaustive list of accommodation providers catering for Housing
Benefit recipients. Therefore, information was collected directly
from a sample of 36 local authorities by asking them to 'brainstorm'
and consult documents to compile a list of local providers. Local
authorities then checked their records to see if any Housing Benefit
recipients currently lived at those addresses. From these a sample
of 1,000 claimants was selected.
In order to estimate the amount of Housing Benefit expenditure spent
on ineligible service charges, detailed information was collected
from accommodation providers housing the selected claimants. The
different elements of the charge to the tenant were broken down by
means of a telephone interview and a self-completion datasheet. This
included information on services provided and the costs to the
landlord of providing them.
A new assessment of Housing Benefit was made using this information
for each selected case and this was compared to the amount of benefit
actually paid to the tenant. From this, an estimate was produced of
the amount of Housing Benefit used to pay for ineligible services in
the whole of Great Britain. Figures for Great Britain were based on
local authorities' estimates of the number of Housing Benefit
recipients in supported accommodation.
However, a key finding of the research was that Housing Benefit staff
varied markedly in their knowledge of supported accommodation schemes
in their area and probably underestimated the number of benefit
claimants in supported accommodation. This meant that it was
unreliable to base expenditure estimates solely on this information.
The figures in the report were therefore supplemented by new data on
the amount of supported housing. Hence, two sets of estimates are
presented in the report.
Other main findings were:
- On the basis of information provided by the sample of local
authorities, there were some 123,500 Housing Benefit claimants in
supported accommodation in Britain in 1996/7. An adjusted estimate,
derived from official housing statistics, set the figure at 447,000.
The difference was most likely due to under-counting of claimants in
- Some of the Housing Benefit paid to between 70,000 and 300,000
claimants was found to be meeting the cost of support services not
eligible for benefit. Five to 10 per cent of Housing Benefit claims
from people in supported accommodation were judged to be wholly
soundly based. A further 12 to 14 per cent were accurate to within
£3 per week.
- On the basis of the lower estimate which draws purely on survey
data, between£120m and£160m of Housing Benefit was paid out in
1996/7 to cover service charges that were not in fact eligible for
support through Housing Benefit. Using the higher population
estimate, these figures increase to between£360m and£480m.
- In some cases, Housing Benefit was not meeting the charges for
eligible support services in full. On the basis of the survey data
for 1996/7, additional Housing Benefit of between£85m and£115m
could have been paid towards these services. Using the higher
population estimate, these figures increase to between£155m and
- Most supported accommodation was available equally to men and
women, although 27 per cent and 15 per cent of schemes catered solely
for men and women respectively. Schemes typically provided
accommodation to a wide range of age groups. Although age
restrictions were the exception, about a quarter of schemes were for
residents who were aged 60 or over. Only about four per cent of
schemes described the age range of their residents as exclusively 20
years of age or younger.
1. In August 1997, the DSS introduced new
interim regulations covering funding of services in supported
accommodation through Housing Benefit. The interim regulations were
designed to protect the supported accommodation sector pending the
outcome of a long-term review of the funding of supported
accommodation. It allowed Housing Benefit to continue to pay for
reasonable charges for general counselling and support for claimants
in existing accommodation.
2. On 31st March 1999, Alistair Darling announced the government's
decision to proceed with the Supporting People proposals, as outlined
in the recent consultation paper. This proposed replacing the
current complicated funding arrangements with one single budget
targeted specifically at support services for vulnerable people,
which would be administered by local authorities. Supporting People
will be implemented from April 2003.
To pave the way to these proposals, a new transitional Housing
Benefit scheme will be implemented from April 2000. This will have
wider coverage than existing regulations, and will gather the
information needed to inform the funding requirements for the
long-term proposals. The current interim regulations will be
extended to April 2000 to enable the effective implementation of the
3. The study is based on an analysis of service charges paid by a
random sample of Housing Benefit recipients living in supported
accommodation in England, Scotland and Wales. The sample was drawn
from 36 local authority areas. Representatives of over 500 providers
of accommodation were interviewed and a detailed breakdown of charges
obtained from nearly 200 accommodation schemes. The research was
carried out by the Social Security Unit at the Centre for Research in
Social Policy, Loughborough University.
4. Housing Benefit and Supported Accommodation is published on 22nd
July in the Department of Social Security's Research Series (report
number 93). It is available from Corporate Document Services, ISBN 1
84123 104 5, priced£31.50. A free summary is available from Kailash
Mehta at the DSS Social Research Branch (0171 962 8558).