Categories
Finance & Funding Policy

Enhanced Housing Benefit, the Exempt Accommodation Project and the Oversight of Supported Housing

Introduction

Some months ago, I wrote a briefing on the oversight of supported housing. Since then, much has happened in the supported housing space, including the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing and consequential structural changes at local authority level. These changes include more integrated “commissioning” of supported housing, often in conjunction with Revenues and Benefits departments, as local authorities consider how to manage the supported housing “market”.

Enhanced Housing Benefit and the Exempt Accommodation Rules

We have seen additional restrictions on, and greater scrutiny of enhanced Housing Benefit claims made by supported housing providers under the Exempt Accommodation rules.

Back in October 2020 I wrote a briefing on the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing in which I expressed concern that it would be used as an exercise in cost control. Unfortunately, those fears seem to be justified in many instances. Some local authorities are trying to insist on supported housing providers becoming registered providers to qualify for framework agreements and tenders in circumstances where, in England at least, this is a very difficult thing to do.

Other local authorities are restricting enhanced Housing Benefit payments to non-registered supported housing providers to artificial local maxima of less than they need and are entitled to. They do this to avoid the subsidy loss they incur when they pay enhanced Housing Benefit to non-registered supported housing providers. This is understandable in a way, but it further reinforces the three-tier system in which a tenant’s entitlement to enhanced Housing Benefit is dependent on the legal identity of their landlord, which is patently bonkers as well as discriminatory:

  • Private supported housing landlord: Local Housing Allowance levels only
  • Nonregistered supported housing provider landlord: reduced levels of enhanced Housing Benefit
  • Registered provider supported housing landlord: full enhanced Housing Benefit

We actually need to get rid of the Exempt Accommodation rules and move to a supported housing rent based on an unrestricted Universal Credit housing component. This should be irrespective of the legal identity of the supported housing provider.

The Exempt Accommodation Project

Whilst we are stuck with the Exempt Accommodation rules, we’ve developed the exempt accommodation project in order to:

  • Stop financial discrimination based on the legal identity of a supported housing landlord
  • Enable local authorities to fully recover the enhanced Housing Benefit they pay
  • Ensure full regulatory compliance through the optional use of the ClouDigs cloud-based supported housing management system (it’s effectively free, so why not?)
  • Ensure that supported housing providers are of good quality and only operate with the consent of local statutory sector partners

The Exempt Accommodation Project works by connecting non-registered supported housing providers that own or lease their properties with smaller, community-based registered providers that then take a legal interest in the properties concerned. This enables the payment of enhanced Housing Benefit, which the local authority can fully recover. We provide all the necessary documentary infrastructure and regulatory compliance systems, and we calculate and secure the enhanced Housing Benefit. It effectively costs nothing as the small costs involved are Housing Benefit eligible.

Exempt Accommodation Project Flowchart

Exempt Accommodation Project Flowchart
Exempt Accommodation Project Flowchart

Please get in touch if you want to be part of the Exempt Accommodation Project, if you’re:

  • a supported housing provider, irrespective of legal identity, looking for enhanced Housing Benefit
  • a registered provider needing an additional revenue stream within a risk-managed structure
  • a local authority wanting a strategic approach to full subsidy recovery on enhanced Housing Benefit payments, and the effective management of the local supported housing market.

The Exempt Accommodation Project will not accommodate supported housing providers that are not welcome by the local authority within which they seek to operate. We conduct extensive due diligence on ALL supported housing providers (and registered providers) asking to be involved in the Exempt Accommodation Project. The first consideration the due diligence process is whether the supported housing provider in particular is “approved” by the local authority.

The Accreditation and Oversight of Supported Housing

It would be much simpler if supported housing providers were accredited by local authorities (not regulated or overseen, more on that in a minute). Why not simply refresh the old Supporting People accreditation framework? This would prevent the ill motivated people who set up poor quality supported housing providers and dubious registered providers as a moneymaking exercise from being able to claim enhanced Housing Benefit. Unaccredited providers should not be eligible to claim enhanced Housing Benefit. Thea Raisebeck’s “Exempt from Responsibility?” Report is an insight into the dangers of unaccredited providers.

The National Statement of Expectations requires local authorities to manage their local supported housing “market”, including supported housing services that they don’t fund, so-called non-commissioned services.

I think we need to clarify what we mean when we talk about “commissioned” and “non-commissioned” services. Both the National Statement of Expectation for Supported Housing and the abuse of the enhanced Housing Benefit system require us to do so.

In my view supported housing services should not be eligible for enhanced Housing Benefit or other funding unless they operate at the behest or with the approval of the local authority and its strategic partners.

Local authorities should actually accredit supported housing providers, whether or not they do so in a formal way. In this sense all enhanced Housing Benefit eligible supported housing services would effectively be “commissioned”. Commissioned with a capital C if they are recipients of local authority or other statutory funding aside from enhanced Housing Benefit and commissioned with a small c if they receive enhanced Housing Benefit only. The point is that the latter, which are erroneously referred to as “non-commissioned services”, should only be paid enhanced Housing Benefit if they operate at the behest of or with the approval of local authorities and are accredited by them. If they do this they should be regarded as commissioned services, albeit commissioned with a small c, as they do not receive local authority funding aside from enhanced Housing Benefit.

Accreditation is not regulation or oversight. It’s acceptance by a local authority that a provider operates strategically relevant supported housing that generates value[1].

As I have mentioned before, there is a multiplicity of regulators in the supported housing space: various national housing association/registered provider regulators, the Charity Commission, the CIC Regulator, the FCA none of which are specialists in supported housing.

For the most part supported housing is not overseen. The National Statement of Expectations doesn’t require local authorities to oversee supported housing, which is just as well as they are neither resourced and consequently skilled to do so.

I continue to argue for an independently developed and implemented supported housing oversight system with national scope and based on Value Generation principles. It should be developed by a university or think tank in consultation with the local authorities and providers but implemented independently. The outcomes it generates through formal oversight of supported housing should be fed back to local authorities and providers to inform funding and commissioning decisions and service improvement strategies.

The supported housing quality assessment system I propose (SHQAS) should be a Value Generation-based system. I defined the three value generation principles before and it’s important also to identify how these principles should be measured:

  1. Outcomes for people: qualitatively measured
  2. Cost benefit: quantitatively measured
  3. Wider social and community benefit: both qualitatively and quantitatively measured

The SHQAS should be funded by the UK and national governments. It shouldn’t cost providers and local authorities anything.

Conclusions

So, if you’re thinking about claiming enhanced Housing Benefit, be mindful of the fact that many local authorities are placing restrictions on the amounts they will pay and to whom.

Blanket approaches at restriction are exercises in cost control, not necessarily strategies to invest in supported housing providers that generate value and to restrict resources to those who don’t.

This means that there are many good supported housing providers, that don’t work with registered providers, that will have their revenue restricted. There are some not so good supported housing providers that work with registered providers (some of which are also questionable) which won’t have their revenue restricted.

The Exempt Accommodation Project is a means of rectifying this problem by matching good supported housing providers, which are “approved” by their local authorities, with good community-based registered providers.

In terms of how a local authority “approves” a supported housing provider I believe it should do so via a local accreditation process. No need to reinvent the wheel here: this is what local authorities used to do in the days of “Supporting People”. Bring out the old Supporting People accreditation framework, dust it down and update it for use today.

I don’t believe that local authorities are resourced or skilled to oversee supported housing, and in any event, we need to separate oversight on the one hand from commissioning and funding on the other. Hence, I have argued that a system for the oversight of supported housing, with national scope, should be developed by an independent agency such as a university or think tank and then implemented by that agency independently of both local authorities and supported housing providers. Clearly, the outcomes of the oversight process, which must be based on Value Generation principles, should be shared with both local authorities and providers to inform commissioning/funding decisions and service outcomes.

Michael Patterson

August 2021


[1] Value Generation is: outcomes for people (who live in supported housing); cost benefit to the public purse & wider social and community benefit.

Categories
Uncategorized

The Exempt Accommodation Project

Background

We have recently been contacted by a number of non-registered supported housing providers (i.e supported housing providers that are not registered providers/housing associations) who tell us that their local authorities require them to become registered providers of social housing in order to be able to be included on the local framework agreements and in order to qualify for Enhanced Housing Benefit.

We are also aware, as per my recent blog post, that some local authorities are restricting Enhanced Housing Benefit payments to non-registered providers to levels well below those paid to registered providers. This is because local authorities can only fully reclaim from the DWP the Enhanced Housing Benefit they pay to registered providers.

Add to that the fact that private-sector providers have never been entitled to Enhanced Housing Benefit and what we have is a three-tier system in which:

  • Tenants of registered provider supported housing can receive full Enhanced Housing Benefit entitlements
  • Tenants of nonregistered supported housing providers receive partial Enhanced Housing Benefit entitlements
  • Tenants of private sector supported housing providers receive no Enhanced Housing Benefit at all

It simply wrong and discriminatory that tenants’ entitlements to Enhanced Housing Benefit, which is a personal benefit, are dependent on the legal identity of their landlord.

The Exempt Accommodation Project

The Exempt Accommodation Project is a way of helping local authorities to properly fund supported housing via Intensive Housing Management/Enhanced Housing Benefit without losing subsidy and without requiring non-registered providers to register as registered providers (housing associations).

The Exempt Accommodation Project is, of necessity, a means of tinkering with the existing system, which is based on the exempt accommodation rules. However, the UK government, having already said that supported housing will continue to be funded through the welfare system, should make the housing component of Universal Credit unrestricted for supported housing so that the true cost of supported housing can be met through a “Supported Housing Rent“. This should be payable to all supported housing providers, irrespective of their legal identity, provided they generate value[1] however, the wheels of state turn slowly so until that happens, we have the Exempt Accommodation Project.

How does the Exempt Accommodation Project work?

The Exempt Accommodation Project seeks to match nonregistered supported housing providers that own or lease their properties with compatible registered providers in a more equitable way than traditional registered provider/managing agency agreements. The properties in question are then leased by the supported housing provider to the registered provider on a 5-7 year basis. As a consequence, local authorities can fully reclaim the Enhanced Housing Benefit they pay, because a registered provider is the landlord.

  • The registered provider is paid (via the Enhanced Housing Benefit claim) for what it does, which will vary depending on what, if anything, the supported housing provider needs. This is likely to appeal to smaller, community-based registered providers for whom the additional income could be a game-changer.
  • The supported housing provider is also paid for what it does via the same Enhanced Housing Benefit claim, which will be more secure because the local authority can recover it from the DWP.
  • The regulatory/oversight functions are managed via a bespoke cloud-based supported housing management system (ClouDigs) that is housing benefit eligible, so it costs nothing and generates huge value
  • Maintenance can be subcontracted to a specialist supported housing maintenance provider, or the registered provider can do it, depending on what works best for the supported housing provider.
  • We provide the necessary leases/subleases and management agreements
  • We calculate and negotiate the revised Enhanced Housing Benefit claims.
  • It won’t cost you anything except a small setup fee, which will be a fraction of the financial benefit that will accrue to you, and which is fully recoverable from Enhanced Housing Benefit in any case..

Supported housing providers and registered providers can choose who they work with and what components of the Exempt Accommodation Project structure they need. They may or may not need maintenance services, may or may not need the bespoke supported housing management system (but why not? It’s incredibly good and effectively free of charge).

Supported housing providers and registered providers that want to get involved will need to show that they generate value. They will need to show that they operate through recognised referral pathways as far as the local authorities are concerned. The Exempt Accommodation Project is not an invitation to dubiously motivated opportunists to access Enhanced Housing Benefit. It is an opportunity for genuine supported housing providers and registered providers to operate with the financial and strategic approval of local authorities and to enable those local authorities to fully recover the Enhanced Housing Benefit they pay.

We are setting up a database of providers and registered providers in order to match one with the other. Matching may initially be done on the basis of geography; however, this may be less important than “cultural fit”. For example, some registered providers may prefer to work with non-profit supported housing providers. Others may be comfortable with private sector supported housing providers. Irrespective of legal identity supported housing providers must generate value, as must the registered providers.

It’s then up to the supported housing provider and registered provider to agree who does what and how the revenue is split. This is a discussion we can facilitate if that’s helpful. The split of roles can vary. Many supported housing providers that own or lease their property will want the registered provider to have a “light touch/arms-length” role. Others will want a greater level of registered provider involvement and the revenue would be split accordingly.


[1] Value Generation has 3 components: outcomes for people; cost benefit to the public purse & wider social and community benefit

Exempt Accommodation Project Flowchart

We have a management agreement template that can be adjusted to reflect the parties’ respective roles and the split of revenue.

We have lease and sublease models that can be used to enable the registered provider to take a 5–7-year leasehold interest in the supported housing providers’ properties with mutual break clauses.

We have a bespoke cloud-based supported housing management system (developed by a supported housing provider) that enables the registered provider to fulfil its regulatory oversight responsibilities and enables the supported housing provider to manage its housing and support roles. This costs just a few pence per week per occupied bed space and is Housing Benefit eligible.

ClouDigs Supported Housing Management System

We have links to specialist supported housing maintenance provider so maintenance can be organised and paid for by the supported housing provider on a “true costs” basis. Alternatively, the supported housing provider can use the registered provider’s maintenance service if it has one or organise its own maintenance.

Management agreement relationships where the registered provider owns the property can be quite unequal. The Exempt Accommodation Project is intended for supported housing providers that own or lease their own property to work with registered providers on a more equal basis.

The Exempt Accommodation Project can also be a way of putting together registered providers and supported housing providers who want to discuss wider strategic partnerships and/or mergers. We have had contact from a registered provider in the north-east seeking this, and a supported housing provider in the West Midlands with the same idea.

As well as facilitating the entire structure of the of these arrangements (introductions, agreements, supported housing management system, maintenance options) we also revise the Enhanced Housing Benefit claims to take account of the (small) costs involved.

This idea generates huge value for local authorities, registered providers, supported housing providers and for residents of supported housing.

Getting Involved

Please get in touch if:

  • You’re a supported housing provider that needs secure Enhanced Housing Benefit revenue and eligibility to be included on local authority framework agreements, or you’ve been told to register as a registered provider
  • A registered provider that needs additional income or is interested in partnerships or mergers with supported housing providers
  • A local authority that’s looking to manage the local supported housing market in such a way as to generate value without loss of Housing Benefit subsidy

We already have a growing list of supported housing providers and registered providers on the Exempt Accommodation Project database. Please become part of this.

Michael Patterson

June 2021

Categories
Uncategorized

Why are some local authorities restricting enhanced Housing Benefit payments to charities & voluntary agency supported housing providers and/or forcing them to apply to become registered providers?

Introduction

Some months ago, I published a briefing on the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing and predicted, amongst other things, that it might tempt some local authorities to try and restrict the amounts of Enhanced Housing Benefit payable to supported housing providers, and also to try and limit the number of supported housing providers setting up new services.

In respect of the latter point it certainly the case that local authority should commission[1] supported housing that reflects well researched local priorities, and consequently not commission supported housing that doesn’t do so. In addition, local authorities should not commission supported housing that doesn’t generate value[2]. There are too many wrongly motivated people trying to make a quick buck from public money, and we need to see the back of them.

New Developments

In respect of the former point (i.e. restricting Enhanced Housing Benefit) we are beginning to see disappointing examples of some local authorities imposing blanket restricted Enhanced Housing Benefit levels on non-registered provider supported housing (i.e., voluntary organisations and charities). This has nothing to do with matching resources to needs. It’s just crude cost control being exercised at the expense of supported housing and the people it houses and supports. It means that people in non-registered provider supported housing will suffer lower levels of staffing, services and maintenance whilst people with the same additional needs in registered provider owned supported housing generally won’t. This is an iniquitous situation in which peoples’ entitlements to proper levels of service depend on the legal identity of their landlord, which is absurd. This situation must and will be challenged.

The reason that some local authorities are doing this is because they can only fully recover from the Department of Work and Pensions, the Enhanced Housing Benefit they pay when the landlord is a registered provider[3]. However, that is not a justification for discriminating against supported housing providers and residents simply because their landlord isn’t a registered provider.

We have seen other examples where local authorities insist that non-registered provider supported housing providers must apply to become registered providers as a condition of being eligible to be commissioned as local supported housing providers via framework agreements and other mechanisms.

This is for the same reason as that which “justifies” the blanket implementation at local level of restricted Enhanced Housing Benefit payments at well below the amounts paid to registered provider supported housing providers. Some local authorities don’t want to lose subsidy on non-registered provider supported housing providers no matter how much value those providers generate and no matter how important their services are.

There may be good reasons for some supported housing providers to apply to the Regulator for registration but enabling a local authority to fully recover Enhanced Housing Benefit subsidy isn’t one of them. I assume that the various UK housing regulators (Housing Benefit being a non-devolved issue) will have a view on this? The English Regulator of Social Housing in particular is currently very cautious about applications for registered provider status from supported housing providers. Did English local authorities talk to the Regulator of Social Housing before putting in place these requirements for registration as a condition of being commissioned locally?

I do understand that local authorities don’t want to lose subsidy as a consequence of regulations that treat different supported housing providers differently depending on whether or not they are registered providers. I don’t understand why those local authorities would choose to reinforce that difference by imposing blanket artificial Enhanced Housing Benefit maxima on non-registered providers and/or insist that such providers become registered providers. This is a myopic exercise in cost control that does nothing to support the development of good quality supported housing and does much to prejudice it.

A Solution

We actually need a wholesale redesign of the system for funding supported housing (see my blog post on this from 2020: https://supportedhousing.blog/2020/06/03/funding-supported-housing) but the wheels of state turn slowly and until we get structural change we need to tinker with the existing system. There is a shorter-term solution to this problem that would enable local authorities to recover the Enhanced Housing Benefit they pay in full without trying to force providers down the road of registration or restricting providers to unsatisfactory local Enhanced Housing Benefit maxima. Notwithstanding the fact that the Regulator of Social Housing is likely to rebuff applications for registration made purely on the basis that local authorities need to fully recover Enhanced Housing Benefit.

Please see The Exempt Accommodation Project homepage for more information about the solutions to this problem, then read on below.

Non-registered provider supported housing providers that own or lease their properties should consider leasing such properties to willing registered providers. Typical registered provider/agency relationships are based on arrangements where the registered provider owns the properties and the Management Agreement between the parties reflects that. However, where the provider agency has the legal interest in the property (it owns it or holds the head lease) the Management Agreement should reflect this fact. The Registered provider’s role here is to facilitate the ability of local authorities to fully recover the Enhanced Housing Benefit they pay, to ensure the properties concerned are up to the standards expected by the Regulator and to ensure that occupancy agreements are properly administered.

Aside from that, the provider agency can do everything else, including setting the rents and providing the maintenance services. It might want to subcontract maintenance, for example, to the registered provider on an “actual costs” basis but it shouldn’t have to, especially if it has previously maintained its own buildings.

The registered provider in such an arrangement would be paid an admin fee (say £20-£25) per tenant/licensee per week, which is claimable via Enhanced Housing Benefit. This might not be of interest to larger registered providers that have bigger fish to fry (although it might be). What I have in mind are smaller, community-based registered providers that would benefit from what could be quite significant levels of additional revenue. If a non-registered provider leased 50 units of supported housing to a registered provider with an admin fee of £25 per unit per week, that equates to £65,000 per year.

Please get in touch

So, this blog post is an appeal to non-registered providers and community-based registered providers to think about this. We have developed a lease model and a Management Agreement model to reflect these arrangements, so no one is going to have to reinvent the wheel. Furthermore, we can handle the revised Enhanced Housing Benefit claims to include the admin fee.

We have plenty of non-registered provider supported housing providers looking for willing registered providers, although we would happily talk to more. What we don’t have are the willing registered providers in sufficient numbers and locations so we are especially interested in hearing from registered providers who may have an interest in this, as well as providers looking for registered provider partners: michael@michaelpatterson.co.uk.


[1] To “commission” a supported housing service doesn’t necessarily mean to fund it as well in this context. It means to approve and/or recognise it as meeting assessed local need.

[2] Value Generation has 3 principles: outcomes for people; cost benefit & wider social/community benefit.

[3] If the landlord is not a registered provider (i.e. a voluntary agency or a charity) the local authority can only recover 60% of the difference between the appropriate Local Housing Allowance rate & the actual rent being charged.

Categories
Finance & Funding

Intensive Housing Management & Enhanced Housing Benefit

A List of Routinely Eligible Intensive Housing Management Tasks & Functions

Please be mindful that just because a task, activity or function is listed here it doesn’t necessarily mean that a local authority Revenues & Benefits Team will agree to fund it, or even agree that it’s eligible in principle. Different authorities take different views, but what I have listed below are things that are routinely accepted as eligible.

Enhanced Housing Benefit for Intensive Housing Management is a complex area. It’s based on regulation and case law and is subject to change. Landlords seeking Enhanced Housing Benefit to fund Intensive Housing Management services must comply with the Exempt Accommodation rules. The amounts claimed should reflect the reasonable costs of providing eligible services to people who have been genuinely assessed as needing Intensive Housing Management.

Claims for Enhanced Housing Benefit are rightly subject to scrutiny by local authorities, and the level of scrutiny is increasing as a consequence of abuses of the system by some unscrupulous individuals and organisations. The National Statement of Expectation for Supported Housing (England only) encourages local authorities and their strategic partners to ‘manage the supported housing market’. In practical terms this involves ensuring the quality of supported housing providers and controlling Enhanced Housing Benefit costs.

If you are seeking Enhanced Housing Benefit for Intensive Housing Management you should be an existing, qualifying supported housing provider. If you are a new supported housing provider you should have established referral pathways and be acting with the specific approval of commissioners.

You might be an excellent supported housing provider that provides excellent services to people with additional needs. This doesn’t guarantee that a local authority will agree to pay you Enhanced Housing Benefit, but we can help you in the construction, submission and negotiation of claims.

Context

Intensive Housing Management that is routinely eligible for Enhanced Housing Benefit is split into two broad areas and includes both staff and non-staff costs:

  • General needs housing management and maintenance functions that are more intensively provided as a consequence of the additional needs of supported housing residents
  • Additional or intensive housing management and maintenance functions and tasks that would not be provided in general needs accommodation where no additional needs exist. Such tasks and functions include but are not limited to:

Intensive Housing Management List

  • The provision of an alarm (even though alarms are not HB eligible) or the Housing Proactive system (which is HB eligible. Please ask us about this)
  • Controlling access to the premises (concierge type services)
  • Ensuring rent is paid regularly and on time.
  • Explaining the occupancy agreement and assisting people to abide by it.
  • Organising inspections of property and arranging for any repairs or improvements to be carried out, including the replacement of furniture.
  • The additional costs of property maintenance and repair, aids and adaptations, housing services, furniture, fittings and equipment
  • Ensuring that people are aware of their rights under their occupancy agreement.
  • Offering advice and guidance on keeping property to a reasonable standard of hygiene.
  • Signposting people to other support providers as required.
  • Liaising with all relevant agencies, both statutory and voluntary, on the tenant’s behalf to the extent that it concerns their ability to maintain/develop independence in relation to their housing.
  • Assisting people to reduce rent arrears.
  • Dealing with nuisance issues.
  • Ensuring that people know how to use equipment safely.
  • Providing people with advice and facilitating a move to alternative accommodation as required.
  • Assisting people to claim the housing component of Universal Credit and other welfare benefits related to their supported housing.
  • Helping to keep people safe by monitoring visitors, including contractors and professionals, and by carrying out health and safety and risk assessments of property.
  • Internet access within sheltered and supported housing.
  • PPE.

If you do any or all of the above in sheltered and/or supported housing or tenancy sustainment services and you are an eligible provider (see paragraphs 2 and 4 above) then you should be eligible to claim Enhanced Housing Benefit

If you want advice and assistance in claiming Enhanced Housing Benefit please get in touch.

Categories
Training Events

Intensive Housing Management, the National Statement of Expectations & the Supported Housing (Regulation) Bill

A free Zoom event scheduled for 22nd April 2021 at 10am presented by Michael Patterson and Danny Key, two of the UK’s foremost experts in supported housing policy and finance.

This event will be for a duration of 90 minutes – 2 hours depending on the volume of questions from attendees, who will be provided with the presentation including links to relevant resources.

Context

Back in 2005 the Supporting People initiative was retrenching and supported housing providers needed a way to offset some of the consequent loss of funding. Danny Key had identified a refunding model based on the Exempt Accommodation rules and Housing Benefit regulations (enhanced Housing Benefit). Michael Patterson reintroduced the term ‘Intensive Housing Management’ to describe what it funded and set about promoting it to supported housing providers. The rest is history.

Enhanced Housing Benefit for Intensive Housing Management is now a revenue stream upon which the supported housing sector depends. It has survived the introduction of Universal Credit & UK Government policy changes. However, poor regulation and a lack of oversight of supported housing has led to some individuals and providers seriously abusing the system to the detriment of everyone except themselves. This has infomed the development of the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing and led directly to the Supported Housing (Regulation) Bill.

This event looks at:

  1. Enhanced Housing Benefit for Intensive Housing Management & Maintenance funding: what is it, who can claim it and how?
  2. What impact does the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing have on Enhanced Housing Benefit and supported housing in a wider context?
  3. What does the Supported Housing (Regulation) Bill mean for supported housing in general and for Enhanced Housing Benefit?

If you would like to participate in this event please email us with the words “event booking” in the subject line. We will confirm your participation by replying with a link to the Zoom event and a passcode.

If you would like advice on Enhanced Housing Benefit/Intensive Housing Management or any other aspect of supported housing please email us with the words “consultancy inquiry” in the subject line.

Michael Patterson is the author of the Supported Housing Blog and was responsible for reintroducing the terms “Intensive Housing Management” and “Tenancy Sustainment” to the supported housing sector and is currently promoting Value Generation as a means of measuring the quality of supported housing. Michael is available for consultancy assignments on any aspect of supported housing and specialises in revenue and capital finance and supported housing policy. Michael works with Danny Key on Enhanced Housing Benefit projects.

You can subscribe to the Supported Housing Blog by clicking this link.

You can contact Michael by emailing him on michael@michaelpatterson.co.uk or calling 0800 002 9467.

Please share this blog post with anyone you know who has an interest in supported housing, health & social care.

Supported Housing under a Magnifying Glass

Categories
Policy

The Supported Housing (Regulation) Bill

As those of you familiar with my briefings and blog posts will know, I have for some time been advocating the need for supported housing to be regulated. In devising a system of regulation and oversight, we have the opportunity to either create a system that enables supported housing to generate value in a big way or one that is an albatross that starves supported housing of revenue and serves only to support the discredited system of public sector cost control within which the balance between cost and quality has become compromised. The latter is inimical to Value Generation, which should underpin public sector commissioning (and much else besides). It has 3 components:

  • Outcomes for people
  • Cost benefit
  • Wider social/community benefit

Allow me first to make the distinction between regulation and oversight in supported housing, as I have done previously. Regulation should apply to how an organisation is structured, managed and financed. Oversight, in contrast, should apply to what it does, in this case the delivery of supported housing.

Having made that distinction, it should be noted that the supported housing sector has a multiplicity of regulators (the Charity Commission, the various social housing regulators across the UK and even the FCA for some voluntary organisations). The only thing they have in common is difference unfortunately, and none of them are in any way expert in supported housing. There is a large and growing number of entirely unregulated supported housing providers as well.

Recent events, including the massive growth of Exempt Supported Housing providers both nationally, but especially in Birmingham and regulatory judgements by the English Regulator of Social Housing have brought this lack of regulation to the fore, resulting in the publication of the Supported Housing (Regulation) Bill, which received its first reading in the House of Commons in November 2020.

What is immediately noticeable about the commentary on this as yet unpublished bill are two things:

  1. A lack of distinction between regulation on the one hand and oversight on the other (but it’s early days).
  2. The intention to locate responsibility for what the title of the bill calls “regulation” (although I think it means oversight) in the hands of local authorities.

I’ve covered the distinction between regulation and oversight above and the bill needs to deal with this distinction in its wording for its scheduled second reading in the House of Commons.

The current systems of (organisational) regulation are wildly inconsistent both in their scope and application.

So does the bill intend to place regulation or oversight in the hands of local authorities?

My view is that it would be appropriate for local authorities to be able to regulate and accredit supported housing providers much as they did under the Supporting People initiative. At that time providers had to demonstrate to local authorities that they met certain standards in governance, financial management and stability, operational competence and diversity and inclusion. Why not update and improve the old Supporting People accreditation process rather than reinvent the wheel?

Oversight, however, is a different matter. I have long been of the view that the oversight of supported housing, i.e. the measurement of the quality of what supported housing does, should be separated from those who commission and/or fund supported housing. Local authorities are motivated by cost control, which is inimical to Value Generation, and they’re not appropriately resourced or structured to oversee the operation of supported housing.

The National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing gives English local authorities a great deal of responsibility for the strategic commissioning and “market management” of supported housing. We are already seeing some local authorities in England setting up new commissioning infrastructure, including Revenues and Benefits colleagues (who administer enhanced Housing Benefit), to fulfil these National Statement of Expectation responsibilities.

Supported housing needs to have objective measures of quality, based on Value Generation principles, that are clearly separate from the National Statement of Expectation-based regulatory responsibilities of local authorities and their strategic partners.

As per my previous briefings and blog posts on the regulation and oversight of supported housing, I believe that oversight (as distinct from regulation) systems should be  independently developed on the basis of Value Generation principles by third parties such as universities, albeit in consultation with local authorities and supported housing providers, but implemented independently. Local authorities and their strategic partners can then use the independently collected oversight/operational quality data on supported housing providers to inform commissioning and/or funding decisions required of them by the National Statement of Expectation for Supported Housing. At the same time a clear separation is maintained between oversight on the one hand, and commissioning/funding on the other. This way there is less risk of a conflict of interest between the measurement of quality and cost control. If cost control was ditched in favour of Value Generation, then it would be a different matter.

I would urge all legitimate supported housing providers of all types to engage with the Members of Parliament who are sponsoring this much-needed Supported Housing (Regulation) Bill in order to inform its content and direction. Specifically, the need to make a well calibrated distinction between regulation on the one hand and oversight on the other, and also to make the case for the oversight system to be developed and implemented on Value Generation principles separately from local authorities and their strategic partners.

We can then have the assurance that the measurement of supported housing services’ quality will not be compromised by the dead hand of cost control.

The email addresses of the MPs in question are below. Please contact them and put “supported housing (regulation) Bill” in the subject line. You can refer them to this briefing if you wish by including this link https://supportedhousing.blog/2021/02/19/the-supported-housing-regulation-bill in the body of your email and telling them that it’s less than a 5 minute read.

Kerry McCarthy: kerry.mccarthy.mp@parliament.uk  

Mr Clive Betts: officeofclivebettsmp@parliament.uk

Shabana Mahmood: shabana.mahmood.mp@parliament.uk  

Steve McCabe: stephen.mccabe.mp@parliament.uk

Bob Blackman: bob.blackman.mp@parliament.uk

Helen Hayes: helen.hayes.mp@parliament.uk

Fleur Anderson: fleur.anderson.mp@parliament.uk

Tim Loughton: loughtont@parliament.uk

Andrew Selous: andrew.selous.mp@parliament.uk 

Mohammad Yasin: office@mohammadyasin.org  

Munira Wilson: munira.wilson.mp@parliament.uk

Andrew Gwynne: GwynneA@parliament.uk 

Categories
Policy

The National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing

Introduction

It has been five years since the 2015 Comprehensive Spending Review suggested changes to the regulation and oversight of supported housing. The National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing published on 20th October 2020 is an underwhelming development after this five year wait, albeit that the 2018 decision to continue funding supported housing from the welfare system, rather than a local authority commissioned funding model to top up Local Housing Allowance rates of Housing Benefit, was a welcome hiatus.

We knew that MHCLG and DWP were going to focus on:

  • Controlling Housing Benefit costs
  • Exploring sector led accreditation and benchmarking for supported housing
  • Identifying local authorities’ strategic planning frameworks for supported housing, resulting initially in the draft National Statement of Expectations published in 2017 as part of the “Funding Supported Housing” consultation and policy statement.
  • Examining enhanced regulation for supported housing

Publication of the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing is well overdue after having been flagged up as a UK Government intention over two years ago as part of the “Funding Supported Housing” proposals of 2018 and the draft National Statement of Expectations of 2017.

Added to that is the increasingly urgent and understandably strident tone of various parties demanding that supported housing, or at least the “exempt accommodation sector” should be regulated. Thea Raisbeck’s important “Exempt From Responsibility?” report focusses on this and more.

I agree. I have said so often, for example, my blog post of June 2020. For me, any regulatory and oversight frameworks for supported housing have to be based on Value Generation principles:

  • Outcomes for people
  • Cost benefit
  • Wider social and community benefit

Regulation and Oversight

Regulation should apply to how an organisation is structured, managed and financed. Oversight, in contrast, should apply to what it does, in this case the delivery of supported housing.

There is already a multiplicity of regulators in the supported housing sector, none of which in my opinion has a complete grasp of the nature of supported housing. There are also many supported housing providers that are entirely unregulated. Add to that the vexed question of who oversees what supported housing does, regulated or not?

The National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing is not about regulation, it’s about oversight. It’s not about many of the services provided to people in supported housing, it’s about the accommodation itself and tenancy related services, the latter being Intensive Housing Management funded by enhanced Housing Benefit.

It’s also “guidance”. It relies on the statutory sector for its implementation and without additional funding it will have very little meaningful impact on how supported housing is overseen. This is a missed opportunity.

Having made clear that this Statement of Expectations is about oversight not regulation, it then makes clear that it’s about the oversight of supported housing accommodation not supported housing services. To be frank, it’s not really about oversight at all. It should oversee what supported housing does and how, not just where it does it.

Jurisdictional Scope

The National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing doesn’t make clear to whom it applies in UK jurisdictional terms. It’s a UK Government document but to the extent it mentions regulators it only mentions English regulators. The Housing Benefit about which it talks a lot is a non-devolved function. So, is this England only or is it, at least in part, UK wide? At least one of the examples of good practice used is from a Scottish housing provider.

Analysis

When a policy pronouncement of this potential significance is made, I would usually undertake a line by line analysis. I did begin to, but rapidly came to the conclusion that you’d lose the will to live after the nth vague exhortation by UK Government that local authorities should be “encouraged” to do stuff that was originally set out in the draft National Statement of Expectations of 2017.

I have therefore tried to summarise the UK Government’s “wish list” and to contextualise it by referring to what might have been.

The National statement of Expectations for Supported Housing is divided into two main sections:

  1. Assessing local need and planning effectively to meet demand
  2. Delivering accommodation which is safe, good quality and value for money

Assessing local need and planning effectively to meet demand

The National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing says that there should be collaboration between statutory sector agencies, including revenues and benefits teams, which should enable us to see that this is partly about controlling Housing Benefit costs in the specified/exempt accommodation sector.

I entirely agree that providers should collaborate with local authorities in the development of new supported housing. There are too many entirely unregulated supported housing providers setting up independently of commissioners and then applying for enhanced Housing Benefit.

Local authorities are “encouraged” to

  • Implement oversight arrangements
  • Undertake accommodation needs assessments
  • Map supply against current and future demands (as per the 2017 draft National Statement of Expectations)
  • Identify additional funding requirements.

Local authorities are not being given new money to do this and it isn’t a statutory requirement it’s just guidance, so there are no prizes for guessing what the likely upshot of this will be.

Providers of supported housing are exhorted to ensure safe and good quality housing, including the use of “the most secure form of tenancy/licence compatible with the purpose of the supported housing”.

Local authorities should ensure “value for money” by sharing data and benchmarking within and across local authority boundaries. Maybe you’ll forgive me for hoping that this is more about generating value (see the definition of Value Generation in the Introduction) than just crudely controlling costs, which often achieves the opposite effect. Restricting investment in prevention simply causes more human suffering and the much higher costs of subsequent, and otherwise avoidable, statutory health, social care and criminal justice interventions.

The National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing is right to say that enhanced Housing Benefit claims should be no higher than the cost of providing eligible services that people need, but the likely outcome of what may be chalk and cheese comparisons of different supported housing services to establish local benchmarks may simply be to restrict the amounts payable on the basis of false comparisons. In other words, it may well be more about controlling costs than meeting peoples’ needs or generating value.

The National Statement of Expectation for Supported Housing provides a comprehensive list of (English) statutory and other agencies which should be involved in assessing needs and planning supported housing. It refers to the National Planning Policy Framework (which applies to England only, by the way) and makes reference to the need for “cross authority arrangements”. The latter have been with us in spirit but alas, rarely in physical form since the days of Supporting People.

Delivering accommodation, which is safe, good quality and value for money

The National Standards of Expectations for Supported Housing document refers to a checklist of existing legal requirements and suggested standards for accommodation and “tenancy related housing services” (presumably a reference to Intensive Housing Management funded by enhanced Housing Benefit). These are in Annexes A and B of the document.

Rather predictably much of the focus on “oversight” is around controlling Housing Benefit costs. I’m very much in favour of ensuring that enhanced Housing Benefit is paid at a rate equivalent to the reasonable costs of providing Housing Benefit eligible services that supported housing residents need. To do so is a good investment in prevention and enablement. I am not in favour of reducing enhanced Housing Benefit payments down to artificial maxima established on the basis of false comparisons between different supported housing services as a means of cost control. I’m also bitterly opposed to paying any Housing Benefit whatsoever to contrived supported housing arrangements set up by ill-motivated people to milk the system at the expense of people with additional needs and of the public purse.

I return again to the notion of Value Generation. Sometimes the enhanced Housing Benefit costs of supported housing seem high, whether it’s paid to Specialised Supported Housing (see page 4 of the hyperlinked document for a definition) or other forms of supported and sheltered housing. However, other services for people with additional needs are often far more expensive, and if supported housing generates value:

  • Outcomes for people
  • Cost benefit (to the public purse)
  • Wider social and community benefit

then enhanced Housing Benefit, which equates to what it reasonably costs to provide eligible services, generates a lot of value as well. To use the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing to artificially suppress enhanced Housing Benefit entitlements would be a myopic mistake.

The exhortation within the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing for commissioners and revenues and benefits departments to work together is both welcome and overdue. I am familiar with too many examples where commissioners give strategic support to a supported housing service (even if they’re not funding it) but revenues and benefits departments refuse enhanced Housing Benefit payments. This is most frequently because they can’t fully recover the amount of the proposed charge from the DWP, which is jointly responsible for the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing by the way.

In addition, I’m familiar with so-called supported housing services that are awarded enhanced Housing Benefit by revenues and benefits departments, even though these services are set up without reference to commissioners. Mercifully, this situation is increasingly less common now.

As I said in my introduction to this briefing, the UK Government was thinking about sector led benchmarking and accreditation schemes. My own view is that oversight should be conducted by an externally developed framework for accreditation and quality, based on Value Generation principles. In my “Oversight of Supported Housing” blog post I set out the basis for such a system, to be developed by a University or think tank and implemented by the same agency independently of commissioners/funders and providers, although they would inform its shape and nature according to Value Generation principles. The measurement of the value of supported housing must be independent of the people who fund and provide it.

The National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing proposes a Supported Housing Sector Scorecard, an initiative apparently being led by the National Housing Federation but about which there is little in the public domain. Its development has been delayed for understandable pandemic-related reasons. What is less understandable is the apparent lack of openness about its development, with organisations simply being asked to email the coordinating agency to participate.

It’s based on the more general Sector Scorecard for social housing, the vast bulk of the reports from which are quantitative not qualitative. For supported housing in particular, qualitative data really matters because how people feel about supported housing can often not be measured in quantitative terms, neither can much of its wider social and community benefit. Forgive me for reminding you again of the three Value Generation principles:

  • Outcomes for people
  • Cost benefit (to the public purse)
  • Wider social and community benefit

Of these three the first and the third principles need to be measured qualitatively lest we become preoccupied with the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Conclusions

The National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing has been a long time in the making. It hasn’t changed that much from the draft National Statement of Expectations of 2017 and is disappointing in its scope.

Its focus is on the oversight of the buildings in which supported housing is provided and on “tenancy-related services” only (presumably another term for Intensive Housing Management). It doesn’t concern itself with regulation.

Existing regulators in the sector have neither the scope not the expertise to regulate what supported housing does nor the mandate to oversee it. Given the extent of additional need that supported and sheltered housing is now expected to meet we’ve been let down here. Much of what the sector does will remain inadequately overseen and unregulated.

It seems to me that the primary thrust of the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing is the control of enhanced Housing Benefit expenditure. It is certainly true that we should be very careful about who is paid enhanced Housing Benefit. That is a very different thing from artificially restricting such payments to genuine, value generating supported housing providers. We have an opportunity and a necessity to separate the supported housing sheep from the goats and the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing manifestly fails to help us do this.

To the extent to which the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing identifies useful things, for example, coordination between revenues and benefits teams and commissioners, wider involvement of other statutory agencies, strategic planning and the mapping of supply and demand for supported housing, it does nothing to enable these things. It’s only guidance and provides no new funding for implementation and as such it’s a recipe for inaction save for the focus on restricting enhanced Housing Benefit.

The framework for the oversight of supported housing should be developed and implemented independently of commissioners and providers, albeit with the latter’s significant input. There has to be a separation between the measurement of quality on the one hand and the funding and delivery of supported housing on the other.

Moreover, the oversight of supported housing should be conducted according to Value Generation principles, which have their own internal cost/quality checks and balances.

Michael Patterson

October 2020

Categories
Policy Supported Housing Management

Using Commercial & Retail Space for Reconfigured Supported Housing in the “Post Covid” Era

This blog post looks at the post Covid 19 challenges facing organisations and people who are involved in Emergency Access Accommodation such as refuges, hostels and night shelters that are physically incompatible with the requirements of social distancing. It’s also relevant to people and organisations looking to fund, commission and develop supported and social housing irrespective of whether they have been involved in Emergency Access Accommodation.

If you’re a commissioner, social/institutional capital funder or supported housing provider please read on and get in touch with me if you want to be involved in the development of supported housing, especially but not essentially, in what was previously commercial property such as office or retail space.

One of the consequences of Covid 19 has been the fact that many of us have been required to work from home. Employers have historically been nervous about letting employees work from home perhaps because they fear the consequences of not being able to physically oversee what they’re doing.

However, one of the unanticipated consequences of Covid 19 has been that many employers have developed systems to manage homeworking situations so that employees are clear about what is expected of them, people can communicate well with each other and employers have discovered, in the main, that their fears were unfounded.

This has significant implications for the future of commercial property; primarily office and retail space. Having been required to bite the homeworking bullet many companies will have realised that they no longer need the office space they had, at least not all of it. Furthermore, the retail sector has retrenched and will retrench further in areas where office space falls vacant. As a consequence, it is likely that there will be a glut of unoccupied commercial buildings the owners of which will be desperate to lease it or sell it at a price which will be accordingly reduced.

Some of these premises will be reconfigurable as living space for social and supported housing, often based in central locations. Covid 19 has made us rethink the practicability of the traditional hostel, refuge and other supported housing provision (Emergency Access Accommodation) where people with additional needs are in close proximity to each other. One pandemic is one pandemic too many, but unfortunately, it’s unlikely to be the last. We have the opportunity, albeit an enforced opportunity, to rethink the configuration of supported housing and to move away from HMO style arrangements and to consider designs that give people more personal physical and communal space.

Appropriate surplus commercial space can be reconfigured to supported housing in such a way as to allow a hostel or refuge HMO to be relocated. Instead of single rooms with shared facilities, we can create more self-contained spaces and buildings that will also accommodate communal and management space. Combine this with the fact that there is a lot of institutional and other capital waiting to be deployed into supported housing, and an enhanced Housing Benefit revenue stream to support repayment of the capital and the operation of reconfigured housing. We might all have an unexpected opportunity for the development of new and better designed supported housing in central locations.

Covid 19 has forced the UK Government and national governments to fund programs to drastically reduce street homelessness at the same time as forcing us to rethink the configuration of HMO configured supported housing/Emergency Access Accommodation such as homelessness hostels night shelters and refuges. Housing First services need housing that can be managed with geographical ease and without sacrificing self-containment. Think of the other client groups you work with in supported housing and what the possible opportunities might be.

Think also about how you might approach the need for both capital and revenue and when you do, please get in touch with me because I can help you with these things.

Michael Patterson 18th August 2020 michael@michaelpatterson.co.uk 07376737675

Categories
Finance & Funding Policy

Working Together to Develop New Supported Housing

A Bit of Background

One of the issues that has preoccupied me lately is the way in which private and institutional capital has been and is being introduced to the sector to fund supported housing for people with often high levels of additional need.

Let me be clear; I’m very much in favour of this, but it’s important that it’s done properly by investors, commissioners, housing associations and care and support providers.

You’ll probably be familiar with my emphasis on Value Generation principles

  • Outcomes for people
  • Cost benefit to the public purse
  • Wider social and community benefit

It’s important that all parties have a common values base, such as Value Generation, if we are all involved with services for people with additional needs. If supported housing is developed without common values between the parties involved, the people who pay the price of failure are those who live in it and those who work directly with them to do so.

Private Capital for Supported Housing

Supported housing funded through private capital is a relatively immature “market” and the record so far is a patchy one.

Investors are being offered a good deal here if they’ve done their homework, they know they’ll get a safe long-term return on their investment. That return should be measured in single figure ROI percentages, yet commissioners tell me of investors seeking excessive double-digit percentages whilst some “aggregators” walk off with huge commissions.

If the bottom line is all that matters, then you’re dealing with the wrong sector. To the extent that supported housing is “market” it’s a social one, and your social purpose has to underpin your investment. There are some really good socially oriented investors out there and they’re looking for commissioners who need supported housing. There are housing associations that understand what their role should be and providers with the capacity and vision to take on a wider role, for example, direct responsibility for day-to-day and reactive maintenance as well as direct support to residents.

The Role of Housing Associations

Housing associations are a necessary part of the mix here and, in many cases, they don’t actually provide much or any intensive housing management and support to people who live in supported housing (who are their tenants). This is more often done by specialist providers, but not always: some housing associations are also providers in their own right.

There are different types of housing associations. The “REIT” (Real Estate Investment Trust) based housing associations are there to enable local authorities to fully recover from the DWP the enhanced Housing Benefit they claim for supported housing, and to be a regulated presence that should provide comfort to commissioners and others involved in the development of privately funded supported housing.

REIT-based housing associations need to be independent of capital finance providers, not just a vehicle for enhanced revenue. We should be entitled to expect them to manage their finances and conduct their governance in accordance with a social model of operation. They claim significant levels of public funding in the form of enhanced Housing Benefit, which is a personal benefit of their residents. They should make proper provision for the operation of the housing for which they are responsible, including the creation of maintenance sinking funds and other operational costs. They should remunerate their people on the basis of the value they generate within a social market.

The English Social Housing Regulator recently investigated a number of REIT-based housing associations that develop supported housing with the use of private capital and operate on the basis of public revenue (enhanced Housing Benefit). Regulatory judgements were issued on a number of these. Without commenting on specific cases, it seems to me that the Social Housing Regulator may have rightly censured some but did so without publicly identifying whether any individuals involved made significant personal financial gain. To some extent the Regulator may have also thrown the baby out with the bathwater by criticising other REIT-based housing associations that develop and operate very good supported housing and generate significant value.

Community-based or “traditional” housing associations are typically different from REIT-based associations as they’re not primarily vehicles for the introduction of private capital. What I would like to see is a model where these community-based housing associations act to facilitate the introduction of private capital for supported housing and matching enhanced Housing Benefit because they typically have good governance and operational/financial management.

Sometimes community-based housing associations directly manage supported housing, often they conclude Management Agreements with specialist provider agencies to do so. The agency management route is a well-worn path, but not without its own problems. One of the problems with many housing associations is a common failure to provide sufficiently responsive maintenance services. A broken window in a general needs property may not be deemed to be an “urgent” or “emergency” repair, but in supported housing it often exactly that because of the tenants’ additional needs. The provider agency is usually in a better position to deal with responsive maintenance and in my opinion the Management Agreement should allow for this and the maintenance revenue stream should go direct to the provider agency.

Socially oriented private and institutional investors, commissioners and providers in supported housing would very much value being involved with community-based housing associations, which would take a lease on the supported housing properties. Under such an arrangement, community-based housing associations would enable the claiming of enhanced Housing Benefit such that the local authorities that pay it can fully reclaim it from the DWP.

A Management Agreement would still need to be concluded with the provider agency within which the community-based housing association’s role would be minimal: ensuring that occupancy agreements with their tenants are properly administered by the provider agency and ensuring that the physical environment is of an excellent standard without actually doing the day-to-day maintenance, which would be one of the provider’s roles.

The housing association would receive a management and administration fee and possibly an equity share in the properties as well as plaudits from commissioners and others for acting according to a social purpose.

A Call To Action

I’m prompted to write about this having recently been in discussion with social investors and property developers who are looking for community housing associations and provider partners to work with in the development of new supported housing.

I’ve also been asked to help connect providers with people who fund and develop property for use of supported housing.

  • So if you’re a support provider looking for property for supported housing or the capital to develop it
  • A socially oriented property developer/investor looking for a supported housing provider or a community housing association to work with
  • A commissioner who wants to see the development of good quality supported housing in your area
  • Or a community housing association that’s interested in working with a socially oriented property developer/investor to develop supported housing, with or without an agency support provider

Then please get in touch directly with me and I can put you in touch with my wide network of contacts in the provider, housing association, commissioning and investor/developer sectors.

A Few Words of Caution

On a final, if slightly separate matter: if you’re someone who wants me to help you

  • Set up as a housing association/RP
  • Or a supported housing provider using private property in which you have a personal interest
  • Or you want enhanced Housing Benefit for supported housing that you set up without the active support of local commissioners

Then please DON’T contact me.

Please excuse the slightly tetchy tone but it sometimes gets a little tiresome. I publish blog posts and briefings promoting the need for an integrated and social approach to the development of supported housing, and I then get inundated with requests from private individuals whose intentions have much to do with private profit and little or nothing to do with social value.

I have values (see Value Generation above). They’re important to me and to supported housing in general. I work with people who share those values. I don’t work with people who don’t share those values.

Categories
Finance & Funding

Claiming Enhanced Housing Benefit for Intensive Housing Management

Context

I was recently rereading a Briefing on enhanced Housing Benefit and Intensive Housing Management (also known as enhanced housing management and/or additional housing management), that I wrote for Support Solutions in 2010. I was struck by how relevant and important the information in that Briefing remains today.

Enhanced Housing Benefit is payable to providers of most types of supported and sheltered housing, provided they comply with the Exempt Accommodation rules. If you’re not sure whether your organisation qualifies please ask.

Please be aware that we do not support unregulated private supported housing providers to claim Enhanced Housing Benefit for reasons set out in Thea Raisbeck’s “Exempt From Responsibility?” report.

The reason that Enhanced Housing Benefit is payable is because qualifying supported housing providers provide additional and more intensive housing management and maintenance services than would be the case in general needs rented housing. They do so because supported housing residents have additional housing needs and supported housing itself has additional maintenance and services costs.

What Are Enhanced Housing Benefit & Intensive Housing Management?

There is no definitive list of Intensive Housing Management tasks. We have developed one based on the notion that Housing Benefit will fund tasks which are part and parcel of adequate accommodation, bearing in mind the needs of the residents, and provided these tasks are not funded elsewhere.

Many of these tasks routinely constitute much of a Support Worker or a Scheme Manager’s job description. Housing management functions such as lettings, assistance with claiming Housing Benefit to ensure that rent and service charges are paid, controlling access and facilitating and monitoring site visits from contractors and other visitors/professionals, arranging aids and adaptations, health and safety and risk assessments of property, management, administration, delivery and facilitation of housing services provided, the additional maintenance and services costs……I could go on.

If you are a non-profit provider of accommodation and support and the Intensive Housing Management tasks you perform aren’t funded by another revenue stream, then it can be funded by Housing Benefit. Even better, if you’re a registered provider of social housing (RP) and you provide supported or sheltered accommodation, in which you charge Intensive Housing Management as an eligible service charge, the local authority receives full reimbursement from the DWP in subsidy recovery. This means you’re actually bringing in money to the local area.

This subsidy top-up doesn’t fully apply where non-RPs go down this route. 40% of the difference between what you claim and the Rent Officer determination, which will be similar to the relevant Local Housing Allowance, goes onto the Council Tax bill or is picked up within another local authority budget, such as Adult Social Care. But that’s still a cost-effective way of a community funding a preventative, enabling service.

Why You Should Consider Enhanced Housing Benefit & Intensive Housing Management

It’s a very attractive proposition for RPs and other non-profit accommodation-based support providers for a variety of reasons.

You get full cost recovery on your housing costs which have often been underfunded for years. OK, RPs have an issue with compliance with the Regulator’s Rent Standards (unless its “Specialised Supported Housing”). But that isn’t a problem: Intensive Housing Management costs can be treated as service charge items. You can re-allocate costs and budget headings from rent to housing services where feasible in supported and sheltered housing arrangements.

This enables you to invest in the properties in which people with additional needs live: the physical environment, services and staff. Your support costs can be cheaper because you’ve remodelled your service delivery structure and/or taken some costs out and allocated them (where eligible) to Intensive Housing Management, funded through Housing Benefit. This matters when you bid for support/care contracts because your unit cost for support will be lower without actually reducing your revenue – you’ve just spread the cost.

The Current & Future of Enhanced Housing Benefit & Intensive Housing Management

Having worked with Enhanced Housing Benefit since 2005 you get used to hearing people say, “but it has to end sometime”. Well it hasn’t yet and one of its distinguishing features is its longevity and the fact that case law precedent has established that Intensive Housing Management is eligible for Housing Benefit, having regard to the nature of the accommodation type and personal circumstances of the tenant group.

Over time the Enhanced Housing Benefit pot has grown. Initially, this was directly in response to the retrenchment of “Supporting People”. We advised providers (and not a few local authorities) on reallocating the eligible proportion of their Supporting People revenue loss into Enhanced Housing Benefit. Over time this has become a well-worn path, supported as it is by regulation and case law.

Commissioners/funders will routinely ask supported housing providers looking for funding “have you reallocated your eligible costs into Enhanced Housing Benefit?” because it makes absolutely no sense not to do so.

Providers might want to consider revising service delivery models if this adds value to the lives of people with additional needs. For example, we are often told “well we would provide more services because people need them, but we don’t have the funding”. One of the things we do is to review service models and staff job descriptions in order to introduce Housing Benefit-eligible services such as concierge, access control or night security, for example.

If you’re a qualifying supported or sheltered housing provider (i.e. most social/non-profit providers of supported housing) and you haven’t gone down this route, or you haven’t done so for a while, you really should think about it and get in touch.

Even with the introduction of Universal Credit Enhanced Housing Benefit remains payable in respect of supported housing tenants. This is despite the fact that Housing Benefit was one of the benefits absorbed by Universal Credit and would not otherwise exist. When someone claims Universal Credit, the online application asks the claimant whether they live in supported housing. If they answer “yes” to that question the housing component of their Universal Credit is administered by the LA on an uncapped basis under the Exempt Accommodation rules. This also gives supported housing residents protection from the Benefit Cap, and in some cases from the Spare Room Subsidy/Bedroom Tax.

The “but it has to end sometime” mantra is true of course; it’s just been overly pessimistic for years. It’s likely that the time for change will come when the UK Government finally decides on the funding model for supported housing (in England). Specifically, whether a  transitional arrangement of paying Enhanced Housing Benefit for supported housing via Universal Credit be formalised as a permanent arrangement (which is what we believe will happen). The UK Government did eventually commit to keeping the funding of supported housing within the welfare system after all.

Health and social care are devolved functions within the UK, and supported housing would be were it not for the fact that a proportion of its funding, in the form of (Enhanced) Housing Benefit, remains non-devolved. If the UK Government takes a sensible view of supported housing, and not just its funding, it’ll see it as an integrated part of the health and social care system in England going forward. At the point of change, whatever and whenever that is, it may be that Enhanced Housing Benefit will become a component of Universal Credit.

What happens in NI, Scotland and Wales depends on whether those nations have a fully devolved welfare system (easy to see in Scotland) and whether they choose to (part) fund supported housing from within it or choose to put the funding within health and social care commissioning structures.

Why You Should Think About It

Our message is that you should consider now whether you’re properly recovering the costs of providing the supported housing services that your residents need, or whether you should consider reviewing your service delivery model to enhance revenue recovery. Not just the costs of human (staff) services, but the additional costs you incur in maintaining and servicing your supported and sheltered housing.

Supported housing providers are rightly asked to demonstrate the value that they deliver. They should be equally concerned to identify the costs they incur in delivering that value.

The best way to do so is to ask us to audit what you do and to calculate what it that translates into as a full-cost recovery rent structure. If the amounts are more than you currently charge, then please let us negotiate with Housing Benefit colleagues on your behalf to redress the imbalance.

The good news is that it won’t cost you anything if we find that you can’t claim Enhanced Housing Benefit. If we find that you can, and we successfully negotiate an increase, then you pay a percentage of the increase we achieve for 1 year only. You only pay this percentage when you’re in receipt of the increased revenue and you can pay it over a 12-month period to aid cash flow. If we don’t get you an increase, you don’t pay us anything at all. Contact us.

There is an evident danger in not demonstrating your true costs, or revisiting your service delivery model, whether to appear “reasonable/competitive” to funders or for some other reason.

That danger may manifest itself if we have a funding system change at the point of which supported housing providers’ costs are frozen. If you haven’t optimised your rent and services charges income, the new system may assume you can make do with what you have.

Michael Patterson and Danny Key have worked together on Enhanced Housing Benefit, Intensive Housing Management and other things since 2005. Michael writes, publishes and speaks on supported housing and related matters and provides strategic advice a range of supported housing providers and revenue and capital funders.

Danny’s expertise lies in the technical side of Enhanced Housing Benefit and its relationship to capital. He is an expert on Housing Benefit regulations, the Exempt Accommodation rules and negotiation of claims.

If you’re interested in Enhanced Housing Benefit please get in touch. If Michael thinks your organisation properly qualifies for Enhanced Housing Benefit he’ll involve Danny and if you decide to ask us to help you claim it, you’ll also get half a day of Michael’s supported housing consultancy service (usually via Zoom) for no charge at all.