published today by the department for work and pensions (DWP,
formerly the DSS) and the department for transport, local government
and the regions (DTLR, formerly DETR).
The housing benefit (HB) system currently plays a key role in the
funding of supported housing. From April 2003, the role of HB will
change, as costs of providing support for people will transfer from
HB (and other sources) to a new budget, the supporting people fund,
which will be administered on behalf of the DTLR and the Scottish
executive (SE) by local authorities (LAs). Arrangements in Wales will
include the creation of a scheme administered by the national
assembly for Wales (NAW).
The transitional housing benefit scheme (THBS) is a precursor, and
crucial to the success of the supporting people initiative. The THBS
runs from April 2000 to March 2003 and is intended to provide the
DTLR, NAW and SE with information about the current costs of
providing support through HB. This information is vital for LAs to
put in place contracts with support providers, and will be used in
the overall calculation of the national supporting people budget
('sizing the pot'). In addition, the housing related support costs
paid by people living in leasehold housing which are currently met
through income support and job seekers allowance will also, in April
2003, be transferred to the new supporting people pot.
In October 2000 the DWP and DTLR commissioned the social policy
research unit and the centre for housing policy at the university of
York to carry out qualitative research into the implementation of the
THBS by LAs. This research is not a representative survey of LAs,
providers or BA offices but does provide insight into the experiences
and views of a range of LAs/providers in early-mid 2001.
The principal aim was to gather data on how LAs had implemented the
THBS, what barriers they had encountered and how these had been or
were being overcome.
In early 2001 six LA case studies in England, Scotland and Wales were
conducted with the key stakeholders in each area. A total of 35 LA
staff and 18 provider organisations took part in the case studies.
Two BA offices were also visited. In April and May 2001 four
workshops with HB and supporting people staff from approximately 160
LAs were conducted (attended mainly by English LAs).
In direct response to the findings of this research the DTLR have
announced today that£5m from the supporting people implementation
budget will be made available to LAs in England to fund additional
staff to work on improving the process of collecting and
transferring THBS information for the supporting people programme.
Supporting people and THBS are rapidly changing areas. The report
recognised that by summer 2001 many of those responsible for
supporting people were beginning to engage with THBS. At the time of
fieldwork, some authorities had appeared to have made good progress
in implementing THBS and were developing innovative ideas for
improving the quality of their data and for dealing with remaining
barriers, though many authorities had some way to go.
This is a rapidly moving area, and the implementation of THBS has
progressed considerably in the last six months. Since spring, DTLR
has been monitoring the progress of LAs and momentum has built up
quickly. Following the further Guidance issued in March 2001, DTLR
/DWP launched a series of joint workshops to provide support and
advice to supporting people teams and HB officers. Other initiatives
to support providers and LA staff include:
- Telephone helplines provided by DWP and DTLR;
- DTLR implementation team monitoring and supporting LA progress on
- DTLR-funded regional staff working with the national housing
federation and SITRA to offer advice and information to
housing-related support providers locally;
- DTLR-funded grant programme set up with the housing associations
charitable trust to help very small organisations prepare for the
funding changes and engage with THBS/supporting people;
- Additional DWP guidance to be issued in autumn 2001.
The package of measures announced today will sustain progress already
The findings of the research are set out below.
- Some authorities appeared to have made good progress in
implementing THBS and were developing innovative ideas for improving
the quality of their data and for dealing with remaining barriers;
- However, at the time of fieldwork a significant number of
authorities were only making slow progress in their implementation of
Identifying Supported Accommodation Providers
Although LAs felt that they had identified supported accommodation
provision in registered social landlords (RSLs), they felt that gaps
existed in the private rented sector and sheltered accommodation;
- However, by early summer 2001 many of those responsible for
supporting people were beginning to realise the importance of the
THBS to its success;
Commitment and Resources
- Senior officers and members were not aware of and did not
understand the importance of THBS and supporting people;
- THBS requires additional resources both at the local and national
- Joint working at both the local and national level
was necessary to implement the THBS;
- At the local level implementation of the THBS needed to be seen as
a three way communication process between the main stakeholders: HB
staff, SP lead officers and providers;
- At the national level joint working needed to occur between, among
others, DWP, DTLR, DoH and national provider institutions;
- THBS needed to be 'owned' by SP lead officers. However, HB
departments were often implementing the THBS alone. They lacked the
specialised knowledge to do this;
- HB staff had not been proactive in the review of
supported accommodation cases which had led to identified support
costs being much lower than the government originally estimated;
- THBS has not been applied consistently between and within (shire
counties) local authorities;
- Consequently, many HB departments need to be aware that possibly
all, rent/support splits may need to be reviewed at some time;
- It was difficult to predict when management
information would allow the accurate sizing of the pot as THBS data
(stats 121-124 provided to DWP) will under-estimate support costs
until all support cases have been reviewed;
Providers of Supported Accommodation
- Providers did not necessarily
realise the urgency of splitting support from rent;
- Providers, especially non RSLs, struggled to breakdown costs;
- Providers preferred to put more, not fewer costs into rent;
- Many providers need to be persuaded to re-examine rent breakdowns
- Providers needed and wanted technical and financial help;
- None of the offices visited in the pilot study
were aware of the national scan of IS cases by the BA in March 2000
of this scan or received any results from it for their area.
Consequently, only two were visited in the main fieldwork;
- BA offices were unaware of the relevance and importance of what
had been asked of them and have not been proactive in identifying the
support costs within service charges;
- There were various recommendations for Government
that ranged from DWP and DTLR taking a more proactive approach with
LAs identified as 'failing' in some way to DWP providing additional
guidance on areas such as reasonableness of support charges.
1. 'The Transitional Housing Benefit Scheme: A Three Way Process' is
published on 31st October 2001 in the Department of Social Security's
In-house Research Series (report number 86), ISBN 1 8519 7 931 X.
2. 'Supporting People' is the government's long-term policy to
enable LAs to plan, commission and provided quality lower level
support services which help vulnerable people live independently in
the community. 'Supporting People' will bring together various
funding streams into a single budget to be administered by local
authorities from April 2003.
3. The authors of this report are Roy Sainsbury (SPRU) and Christine
Oldman (CHP) at the university of York.