Finance & Funding Policy

Claiming Enhanced Housing Benefit & the DWP Housing Benefit Guidance for Supported Housing Claims


This briefing is aimed at supported housing providers claiming enhanced housing benefit [both registered providers and non-registered providers] and local authority supported housing commissioning and Revenues and Benefits colleagues.

Enhanced housing benefit became a “thing” from around 2005 when a few of us working in the sector back then we’re looking to identify an alternative revenue stream for supported housing in the light of the retrenchment of “Supporting People” funding.

Enhanced housing benefit funded and funds what Supporting People progressively ceased to fund: essentially non-support related and property related services and functions that are provided in supported housing. Back in 2005 I described these housing benefit funded services and functions as “intensive housing management”; a term that has now become commonplace within the supported housing sector.

Enhanced housing benefit and intensive housing management have become an essential component of the supported housing sector over the years. The amounts of enhanced housing benefit paid annually has gone from £0 in 2005 to around £1 billion now. However, we have also seen industrial scale abuses of enhanced housing benefit over the years by money motivated actors. Consequently, people within the supported housing sector, such as myself, councils and government have shone a spotlight on the situation, and we now see terms such as “Wild West gold rush” [another widely adopted term I coined] being used to describe what is wrong with the system. The problem is not with enhanced housing benefit itself, but with those who abuse it and abuse people with additional needs whose money this is.

Consequently, over time we have seen inquiries, legislation, and regulations to try and manage the enhanced housing benefit system and the abuse is of it. In so doing it is important that the powers that be sort the enhanced housing benefit sheep out from the goats without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There are very many excellent supported housing providers that claim enhanced housing benefit. They and their residents should not be prejudiced by the shameful abuses of a minority.

The legislative response can be seen in the form of the Supported Housing Regulatory Oversight Act 2023. I will be publishing an updated briefing on this legislation imminently and I will be running a series of events in the New Year, details of which will be published shortly.

The DWP Guidance

The regulatory response took shape in May 2022 in the form of the “DWP housing benefit guidance for supported housing claims”. As well as taking its cue from an understandable concern about the abuse of enhanced housing benefit, it also seeks to restrict eligibility for enhanced housing benefit to strictly property related services and functions.

In undertaking an analysis of this guidance, my purpose is to focus only on those parts which are directly relevant to enhanced housing benefit claims [paragraphs 137-178].

Paragraph 137: care, support and supervision must be linked to the property [it must not be floating support]. But see paragraphs 156-158 below.

Paragraph 138: the landlord doesn’t have to be the primary provider of care, support and supervision, but must provide a “more than minimal amount”. It is not enough for the landlord to simply facilitate or coordinate the provision of care, support and supervision.

Paragraph 140: where the care, support and supervision are commissioned by the local authority or the NHS and the landlord doesn’t provide a more than minimal amount of care, support and supervision, the accommodation in question would not be deemed to be specified accommodation and the tenants therein would not be eligible for enhanced housing benefit as a consequence.

Paragraph 142: the focus is on people, not buildings. All eligible claimants must need care, support and supervision to a more than minimal degree, whether or not they avail themselves of it. In some supported housing schemes, some residents may be eligible for enhanced housing benefit whilst others may not.

Paragraph 145: an admission to a supported housing scheme must include a needs assessment conducted by a suitably qualified and experienced person. This could be undertaken by the local authority or by the provider. Third party funding such as Personal Independence Payment or local authority/NHS top up is evidence of an established need and of an appropriate assessment.

Paragraph 148: the needs assessment referred to in paragraph 145 [above] must be supported by a care, support and supervision plan.

Paragraph 149: referral routes into supported housing matter and should be such that Revenues and Benefits colleagues can assume that a needs assessment has taken place. This means that self-referrals are not appropriate, housing options/ homelessness teams referrals are often not appropriate [at least not without supported housing commissioner support] and some third-party provider agency referrals are also not appropriate.

Paragraphs 150 to 155: we still await a formal definition of “care, support and supervision” as part of the Supported Housing Regulatory Oversight Act 2023 consultations. It is to be hoped that this will not be a restrictive definition that would negatively impact on enhanced housing benefit entitlements. This is especially so given the widening funding gap affecting non housing benefit eligible services such as support. However, the direction of travel in the DWP guidance is to try and restrict enhanced housing benefit payments and where the DWP is involved in defining care, support and supervision it would be no surprise if any formal definition was more restrictive still.

Paragraph 151: this paragraph states that there is no set number of hours of care, support and supervision required for the amounts to be deemed to be “sufficient”. However, many local authorities consider three hours of care, support and supervision per tenant a week [on an average basis] to be the minimum required amount and frequently reference case law [CH/1289/2007] in support of this.

As a catch all definition of “care, support and supervision” I believe that it is the totality of both housing benefit eligible [intensive housing management] tasks and functions and non-housing benefit eligible [support] tasks and functions.

Ongoing care, support and supervision is regarded as having more “value” in enhanced housing benefit claim terms than one off tasks and services, for example, signing someone up as a tenant. One to one support is more “valuable” than group support. Care, support and supervision provided by trained and qualified staff is more “valuable” than that provided by untrained/unqualified staff. Direct work with tenants, for example care, support and supervision provided on an agreed appointment basis is more “valuable” than a worker simply being available to be seen. Additional maintenance and repairs due to the needs of tenants should be seen as enhanced housing benefit eligible care, support and supervision.

It is essential that supported housing providers are aware of this and the need to evidence the nature and fact of the services they provide. I have seen too many situations where enhanced housing benefit is denied or withdrawn on the basis that the supported housing provider cannot evidence the support that it genuinely provides.

Paragraphs 156-158: “floating support” is care, support and supervision that is not linked to accommodation. In such circumstances the accommodation in question cannot be defined as specified accommodation, and therefore enhanced housing benefit is not payable. The DWP guidance justifies this on the basis that such accommodation “has not been specifically designed, acquired, adapted or designated to be supported housing”. It is worth noting that this statement is open to interpretation. Many supported housing providers and refuge providers who have dispersed or move on accommodation may well wish to designate as supported housing what might otherwise be seen simply as dispersed or move on accommodation.

Paragraphs 159-165: to qualify for enhanced housing benefit supported housing providers must provide both intensive housing management and support. Support is not fundable by housing benefit and supported housing providers must be able to show how much support is provided, of what nature and, crucially, how it is funded. It can be funded by third party sources such as the local authority/ NHS or charitable funding, via internal subsidy within the supported housing provider or by charging the tenants directly. The point is that within any enhanced housing benefit claim supported housing providers must identify the funding sources for the support that they provide.

Paragraphs 174-176: the DWP guidance reiterates the established view that for service charges to be eligible for housing benefit they must relate to the provision of adequate accommodation, so for example, assisting people to claim benefits is an ineligible charge because it has no impact on the condition of the accommodation. However, I would argue assisting tenants to claim housing benefit, as distinct from other benefits, is eligible.

The guidance then goes on to say [paragraph 175] that “charges for installation, maintenance or repair of any special equipment or adaptations to the claimant’s accommodation to make it suitable to their particular needs are not an eligible service charge”. I would have thought that special equipment and adaptations are absolutely related to the provision of adequate accommodation: however, this is not the view of the guidance, and I would be very interested in other peoples’ observations on this issue.

In paragraph 176 the guidance states that the overhead costs of support are not eligible as part of an enhanced housing benefit claim. I have come across situations in which Revenues and Benefits colleagues have used this paragraph to restrict all overhead costs, which is incorrect. Supported housing providers should be clear about the percentage of eligible services as opposed to ineligible services they provide [remember you must provide both] when calculating the appropriate eligible overhead charge.

Paragraphs 177-178: there follows a list of what I deem to be enhanced housing benefit eligible tasks and functions. This list is a combination of what is included within the DWP guidance and within my long-established briefing that is routinely used as a template for enhanced housing benefit eligible tasks and functions and related staff job descriptions. Please note that both the DWP guidance and my briefing both state that this list is not exhaustive:

  • Controlling access to the premises.
  • Ensuring rent is paid regularly and on time.
  • Explaining the occupancy agreement and assisting people to understand their rights and responsibilities in relation to it.
  • The additional costs of property maintenance and repair, housing services, furniture, fittings, and equipment where the furniture fixtures and fittings do not become the property of the resident.
  • Offering advice and guidance on keeping property to a reasonable standard of hygiene.
  • 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
  • Helping to keep people safe by monitoring visitors, including contractors and professionals, and by carrying out health and safety, maintenance, and risk assessments of property.
  • Internet access within sheltered and supported housing.
  • PPE.
  • Support/IHM worker, concierge, caretaker, or warden staff – only allow the proportion of the charge for the time they are providing HB eligible accommodation-related services.
  • The overhead costs of providing HB eligible services (office costs, IT, travel, telephones, stationary etc).
  • Refuse removal of communal bins.
  • External cleaning of tenant’s windows where the tenant does not live on the ground floor.
  • Ongoing maintenance (including repair, cleaning, and utility) of equipment.
  • communal grounds (including basic gardening and lighting for areas of external access).
  • communal laundry facilities.
  • internal communal areas.
  • cleaning of windows in communal areas and of individual’s accommodation above ground floor level where they are unable to do it.
  • communal lifts.
  • communal telephone (excluding the cost of calls).
  • secure building access, including entry phones, key cards and keypad door locking mechanisms.

How I Can Help You

Claiming enhanced housing benefit is a technical process, even if you do have a good grasp of the regulations, and not every supported housing provider is sufficiently resourced or confident to construct an enhanced housing benefit claim and to defend it when local authority scrutiny is applied.

This is where I can help you. Remember, I was one of the few people who originally identified the exempt accommodation rules as the gateway to enhanced housing benefit back in 2005, and it was me who reinvented the term “intensive housing management” as a descriptor for the tasks listed above.

I take a collaborative approach with revenues and benefits colleagues in negotiating enhanced housing benefit claims. I don’t work with supported housing providers that local authorities haven’t approved, and I have an enviable success rate.

This is at least in part because of my commitment to ensuring that local authorities can fully recover from the DWP the enhanced housing benefit they pay to supported housing providers.

To achieve this, I set up the Exempt Accommodation Project in 2021, which now has several hundred units of accommodation in management and partnerships with half a dozen registered providers, many of them YMCAs.

My work in claiming enhanced housing benefit for supported housing providers is effectively cost neutral, whether or not you use the Exempt Accommodation Project.

My “call to action” to supported housing providers is that you should contact me if you need help with any aspect of enhanced housing benefit. My call to action to local authorities is that you should contact me if you need assistance in eliminating subsidy loss on the enhanced housing benefit claims.

Michael Patterson

November 2023


The Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act 2023


This blog post was written whilst the Act was still the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill, which has since received Royal Assent. As a consequence the blog post has been edited accordingly (July 2023).

A legislative response to the industrial scale abuse of the Exempt Accommodation rules and enhanced housing benefit has taken a long time to happen, but now we see it in the form of the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act. Its 2021 predecessor, the Supported Housing Regulation Bill, also a private members bill, got nowhere because of lack of parliamentary time.

The Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act unsurprisingly succeeded because it was drafted in the light of the Exempt Accommodation Pilots report and, significantly, the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report, it mirrors much of the latter. Those of you who read my blog post on the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report will know that I have significant concerns about its conclusions and its failure to adequately grasp what Exempt Accommodation actually is.

Exempt Accommodation is not a dubious sub type of supported housing: the Exempt Accommodation rules are a set of rules that define who’s entitled to enhanced housing benefit. Most socially managed [or allegedly socially managed] supported housing is exempt accommodation.

General Observations

On balance, I think that the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act is a great improvement on the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report, but the principle that “hard cases make bad law” can still be seen in it, particularly its misplaced focus on “regulation”, when the real problem is the lack of accreditation of supported housing providers at local level and independent oversight of the services they provide.

The idea that all supported Exempt Accommodation providers should register as registered providers, as recommended by the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report, is woeful for reasons I focus on in the accompanying briefing on the Exempt Accommodation Project.

There are 4 established regulators in the supported housing ecosystem already:

  • The Regulator of Social Housing [England]
  • The CIC regulator
  • The Charity Commission
  • The FCA

If you include the CQC (where personal care is provided in supported housing), then we have 5 regulators. In October 2023 Ofsted will regulate supported housing for 16-17 year olds and the supported housing ecosystem will have 6 regulators.

None of the above have any particular expertise in supported housing and none of them has a monopoly on supported housing providers. In the fight against dodgy supported housing providers and registered providers, the issue is not one of regulation, it is one of accreditation at local level and independent oversight of the services they provide.

The Clauses of the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act

So, let’s have a look at the content of the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act, including the amendments proposed during its parliamentary journey.

Clause 1: The Creation of an Advisory Panel​

  • The Secretary of State will be required to appoint an Advisory Panel.​
  • The panel will represent the interests of certain stakeholders including registered providers; local housing authorities; social services authorities and residents.​
  • The purpose of the panel is to provide information and advice on issues related to supported exempt accommodation, including anything which the Panel views could have a significant impact on the provision or regulation of supported exempt accommodation.​

Whilst the creation of an Advisory Panel is a good idea in my opinion, I think that its proposed membership is skewed and reflective of the idea that the whole of the supported housing ecosystem is regulated by the Regulator of Social Housing, which isn’t the case, and neither should it be.

It is to be hoped that the membership of the Advisory Panel will be broadened to include a more representative, dare I say democratic, representation of the supported housing ecosystem to include charities, CICs, other voluntary agencies and the private sector.

Clauses 10 & 11 as amended (see below) provide for the creation of a national supported housing regulator. This regulator should be a new body with specific expertise in supported housing and the scope of which should include all supported housing providers, irrespective of their legal identity.

Clause 2: Local Supported Housing Strategies​

  • Local housing authorities will be required to carry out a review of the supported exempt accommodation in their districts and publish a “supported housing strategy” for the provision of supported exempt accommodation. ​
  • A supported housing strategy must include a local housing authority’s assessment of supply and demand for supported Exempt Accommodation in its district, and such other matters as may be specified by the Secretary of State in regulations.​

This is actually a requirement of the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing. It is clearly a good idea for local authorities to have a supported housing strategy based on a knowledge of existing services mapped against supply and demand.

LA control over which organisations can set up supported housing in their areas is essential. The Exempt Accommodation Pilots led to the development of local authority hubs/gateways through which all intending supported housing providers must apply via a Supported Exempt Accommodation application process. The hub/gateway model is becoming more commonplace now, although not all local authorities have them yet.

Non-commissioned Supported housing providers, particularly “investor-led” and “property-led” providers whose primary purpose seems often to be making money at the expense of the supported housing ecosystem, and the people who depend on it, take note. The recent disasters associated with Home REIT and associated providers such as Lotus Sanctuary are a case in point.

I am continually asked by non-commissioned supported housing providers and their partners to help them to find a registered provider to work with, or to assist them with enhanced housing benefit claims. My response is always a firm “no”, unless a local authority at commissioning level gives me a green light to proceed. 

By “commissioning level” I mean the local government departments and other statutory agencies (social care commissioners, supported housing commissioners, revenues and benefits teams, the NHS and other statutory agencies with an interest in supported housing). I do not mean Homelessness/Housing Options teams as currently constituted. However, it’s important that people with additional needs who present as homeless are assessed properly and routed to supported housing, not temporary accommodation. (More on this in the commentary on Clause 6 below).

Clause 3: National Supported Housing Standards​

  • This will give the Secretary of State new powers to prepare and publish “National Supporting Housing Standards” for England.​
  • This will set minimum standards in respect of the type or condition of premises used for the provision of supported Exempt Accommodation or the provision of care, support or supervision in supported exempt accommodation​.

There have been several amendments to this clause as follows:

Amendment 1 tabled by Clive Betts MP would give local housing authorities the power to introduce a scheme to enforce the National Supported Housing Standards such as that described in clause 4 and 5 below. For this to be workable there would need to be additional funding made available to LAs.

Amendments 2 and 4 tabled by Clive Betts would require Secretary of State to produce a progress report after one year if certain powers are yet to be exercised. By which I mean the powers to prepare and publish “National Supported Housing Standards” and to make provision about the sharing of information relating to supported exempt accommodation.

It is essential that these National Supported Housing Standards are devised by a representative group of agencies with a full understanding of the supported housing ecosystem. The current proposed membership of the Advisory Panel referred to in Clause 1 will not be sufficient. Clearly, “local housing authorities; social services authorities and residents” are essential parties to this Panel, but it should also include independent thought leaders in supported housing who do not have bias towards any specific part of the supported housing ecosystem such as the Regulator of Social Housing or related agencies.​

Clauses 4 & 5: Licensing​

  • Clause 4 would give the Secretary of State power to make regulations requiring people managing supported Exempt Accommodation to obtain and comply with a license issued by the relevant local housing authority.  ​
  • Clause 5 sets out the range of issues which licensing regulations may cover, including: enforcement, consequences of non-compliance, exemptions and fees, restrictions and the areas that a licensing scheme should cover.​

There are already number of “selective licensing schemes” being piloted or considered by local authorities.

The Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act identifies that people who apply for a license to operate supported housing must be “fit and proper persons”. A failure to meet whatever that means will result in the refusal of a license.

There are a significant number of areas that would fall within the scope of a selective licensing scheme:

  • The standard of accommodation.
  • The use of accommodation.
  • Carrying out of assessments of the needs of residents (or potential residents) and relating to the conduct of such assessments.
  • The provision of care, support or supervision.
  • Compliance with National Supported Housing Standards (whenever published)

The Act provides for penalties to be applied to supported housing providers and the people who run them.

A license can be revoked and a fine levied where a supported housing provider or a person who controls it commits a relevant housing offence for the purposes of section 249A of the Housing Act 2004.

A supported housing provider or the person who controls it may be subject to a banning order as provided for in Chapters 2 and 3 of Part 2 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016. This includes being recorded on a database of “rogue landlords” and requiring the repayment of rents received whilst in breach of a licensing requirement.

Clause 6: Consultation​

  • The Secretary of State must consult statutory consultees before exercising the power to make licensing regulations.​
  • The statutory consultees listed are: Local Government Association, National Housing Federation and the Regulator of Social Housing. ​

Amendments to the Act by its sponsor/author Bob Blackman MP propose that local authorities be identified as “statutory consultees” on the Bill on licensing regulations and the National Supported Housing Standards in place of the Local Government Association.

Again, the choice of the Regulator of Social Housing and the National Housing Federation limits the scope and expertise of the “statutory consultees”. This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be included, but it is essential that this mechanism has a wider set of interests other than just agencies that are regulated by the Regulator of Social Housing.

Amendment 3 tabled by Clive Betts MP ensures that assessing the needs of persons who are residents/potential residents is a condition that may be attached to a license to operate supported housing. The assumption is that LAs would be responsible for such assessments via a single hub or gateway through which all supported housing referrals should be routed. This would give LAs control over who becomes a supported housing resident in their area as well as preventing providers offering accommodation to “self-referrals” and people from other geographical areas. Presumably, different arrangements might be required for people fleeing domestic violence and abuse, for example.

It is also possible that supported housing providers may be responsible for undertaking needs assessments within a local authority approved framework.

The single hub/gateway arrangement, which some LAs already implement, is a by-product of the Exempt Accommodation Pilots and should also contribute to LAs’ requirements to balance need and demand within their local supported housing ecosystem.

However, there is a structural problem at local authority level with Homelessness/Housing Options teams not being part of local commissioning infrastructure. These teams have a statutory obligation to house people, the great majority of whom have additional needs, so there is an unmanaged overlap between them and their commissioning colleagues. The needs assessment process could therefore be an important part of local infrastructure, whether conducted by local authorities or supported housing providers, in ensuring that homeless people with additional needs are routed into supported housing rather than temporary accommodation.

Clause 7: Local Housing Authority Functions ​

  • A local housing authority must, in the exercise of its functions under licensing regulations, have regard to— (a) National Supported Housing Standards (if any), and 10 (b) any guidance issued by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this section.​

This section is self-explanatory, and the missing part is the National Supported Housing Standards document, with which supported housing providers must comply, as described in Clause 3 (above).

Clause 8: Planning​

  • This places a duty on the Secretary of State to review the effect of licensing requirements within three years of regulations being made.​
  • Following such a review, the Secretary of State would be required to consider whether to specify exempt supported accommodation as a use-class which would require planning in certain circumstances​.

This clause needs to be read in conjunction with clauses 4, 5, 6, & 7 above.

Currently the planning use class position for supported housing (remember that pretty much all socially managed supported housing is “exempt supported accommodation”) is confused.

Supported living (i.e. where a single person or a couple receives support in their own home) is subject to use class C3(a) and supported housing where up to 6 people live together as a single household is subject to use class C3(b). See here.

It is therefore the case that supported housing schemes of 7 or more people in shared accommodation fall outside of the planning use classes. If the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act provides an opportunity to sensibly rationalise the planning use classes for supported housing, then this would be a good thing.

Clause 9: Homelessness​

This clause would ensure that where someone chooses to leave exempt supported accommodation due to poor conditions or care, and the standards within the accommodation do not meet the National Supported Housing Standards, they will not be classed as “intentionally homeless”.​

This clearly a good thing. It is nothing short of disgraceful that people with additional needs are faced with a Catch 22 situation where they’re forced to continue to live in poor conditions in so-called supported housing, or to live on the streets because they’re “intentionally homeless”, having refused to live in poor conditions in so-called supported housing that takes their enhanced housing benefit entitlements in exchange for poor accommodation with nil or negligible support.

Clauses 10 & 11: Information Sharing About Exempt Accommodation​

  • Gives the Secretary of State power to make regulations relating to the sharing of information on Exempt Accommodation by a local authority; a registered provider of social housing; the Regulator of Social Housing and the Secretary of State.​
  • Provides that certain information obtained under specified legislation relating to housing benefit or council tax, can be used by a local housing authority for any purpose connected with the exercise of any of its functions under the Act, or otherwise relating to specified exempt accommodation, or for the purposes of investigating whether any offence has been committed by virtue of the Act.​

Amendment NC1 tabled by Clive Betts MP would require the Secretary of State to consult on the establishment of a national regulator of supported exempt accommodation. This might be “an existing public authority”.

As with some other parts of the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act, the focus here is too limited to the Regulator of Social Housing and Regulator of Social Housing regulated agencies, which by no means represent the totality of the supported housing sector. This limited scope excludes charities, CICs, other forms of voluntary agency and, crucially, the private sector. As I have observed above, the same criticism can be applied to the membership of the Advisory Panel under clause 1 (above).

Clive Betts’ amendment NC1, however, gives us the opportunity to establish a new “national regulator of supported exempt accommodation”. This agency should specifically not be the Regulator of Social Housing, the Charity Commission, the CIC regulator, the FCA or the CQC, none of which really understand supported housing and none of which have a monopoly on the regulation of supported housing providers.

Amendment NC2 by Kate Hollern MP states that all residents of supported housing should be provided by the local authority with a Charter of Rights that should include:

  • A statement of the rights of residents of supported exempt accommodation.
  • A statement of the responsibilities of providers of supported exempt accommodation.
  • Information about support services for residents of supported exempted accommodation.

Rather than reinvent the wheel on this, why not simply adopt Spring Housing’s “Charter of Rights for Supported Exempt Accommodation” residents?


This Act has some shortcomings, however, it’s a very big step in the right direction towards ridding supported housing of the parasites that infest it in the guise of certain supported housing providers, RPs, developers and investors that are interested in financially abusing people with additional needs in return for shoddy properties and negligible or no support.

The Act provides for local infrastructure to manage supported housing, including licensing powers. It prescribes a set of national standards for supported housing, which are well overdue, although these should be informed by a wider set of interests than has been proposed.

The Act has an unnecessary preoccupation with supported housing providers that are regulated by the Regulator of Social Housing, and this comes at the expense of other non-profit supported housing providers and of the private sector. We need an overarching piece of legislation that captures the totality of the supported housing ecosystem. The future regulator of supported housing must not be an existing regulator.

The Act doesn’t challenge the status quo of the exempt accommodation rules, which should be abolished, and the local authority subsidy rules, which should be changed to stop local authorities favouring registered providers, for financial reasons, as supported housing landlords.

The Act also doesn’t specifically address the confusion at local authority level where people with additional needs are routinely routed into temporary accommodation by Homelessness/Housing Options teams when they should be routed to supported housing. However, the amendments to Clauses 4 & 5 that require a local authority (or supported housing provider on its behalf) to carry out needs assessments of people in the context of supported housing may be a means by which this anomaly is resolved.

The Act rightly emphasis the rights of people with additional needs by requiring a Charter of Rights for residents of supported housing. It also requires that people who leave poor quality supported housing should not be declared to be “intentionally homeless”.

How We Can Help You

We are currently offering Board, SMT and staff team briefings to supported housing providers, registered providers, social impact investment agencies and the statutory sector on the implications of the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act. These can be delivered face to face or remotely and are based on an agreed brief with each agency. Usually, they are 2–4-hour events, depending on what your organisation requires.

Please call 0800 002 9467 to discuss this.

Michael Patterson

April 2023


The Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report

Introduction and Background

On 27th October we finally saw the long-awaited Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report. The purpose of this briefing is to summarise it and the wider context of Exempt Accommodation in general.

My name is commonly associated with Exempt Accommodation as one of a few people who identified it, and Enhanced Housing Benefit, as a means for supported housing providers to offset some of their revenue loss from the retrenchment of the Supporting People initiative from 2005 onwards.

The Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report states “we would describe the system of Exempt Accommodation as a complete mess”. Those of you who read my blog posts and briefings will know how strongly I feel about people and organisations who use the Exempt Accommodation system for personal gain, some of whom do so on an industrial scale.

Work that I and others have done on Exempt Accommodation and Enhanced Housing Benefit has led to the creation of a revenue stream for supported housing of around £1 billion a year, in the absence of any meaningful alternative revenue stream for supported housing.

The term “Intensive Housing Management”, which is what Enhanced Housing Benefit funds for Exempt Accommodation providers to provide eligible services, exists because I identified and reintroduced that term in 2005 to describe the tasks and functions Enhanced Housing Benefit funds.

The problem is that greedy, unprincipled, money grabbing people have taken it upon themselves to abuse people with additional needs for their own financial gain. In some cases, making millions of pounds every year off the backs of people they’re supposed to be accommodating and supporting.

Since I and others began raising concerns about the situation some years ago, we have seen developments such as the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing, the Exempt Accommodation pilots and related things such as the May 2022 DWP Guidance for the Administration of Housing Benefit claims for supported housing as well as the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry itself.

I have strongly advocated a values-based approach to the management of the supported housing ecosystem, including accreditation of supported housing providers at local level and an independent oversight system.

General Observations

I’m pleased to say some of what I advocate in this regard has been acknowledged in the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report including the language I have used to describe Exempt Accommodation abuse such as the “wild west gold rush“. This particular soundbite also seems to have been adopted by Bob Blackman MP, a member of the DLUHC Inquiry Committee and the sponsor of the recently published “Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill” currently heading for its second reading in Parliament. However, the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report, whilst justifiably angry, is a somewhat patchy and in places a disappointingly unhelpful response.

Detail on the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill is currently sparse, but I assume that its content will reflect that of the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report. If it does, it will cause me similar concern to that raised by my reading of the Report, which follows below. We have the opportunity to deal with the unfit for purpose Exempt Accommodation Rules and the dubious people who abuse them and the people they’re supposed to accommodate and support. My reading of the Report does not give me confidence that we’re on the right track here.

My own view is that the Exempt Accommodation rules should be abolished. They have been used for the obverse of which they were intended, which was (ironically) to prevent abuse of the Housing Benefit system. For the past 10 years people in supported housing (except private sector supported housing) have had the housing component of their Universal Credit administered as Housing Benefit under the Exempt Accommodation rules, meaning that it is effectively uncapped. Why don’t we formalise that arrangement so the tenants of locally accredited supported housing providers of any legal identity can claim what I have previously referred to as “Supported Housing Rent“?

We need radical, uncomplicated, structural change to rid the supported housing ecosystem of the thieves and abusers that infest it in the guise of supported housing providers, and in some cases registered providers. But the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report doesn’t go nearly far enough to achieve this.

I still don’t think that the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry has quite grasped the fact that most (socially managed) supported housing is actually Exempt Accommodation, and that Exempt Accommodation isn’t just a potentially dubious subtype of supported housing. If the Inquiry had taken this wider view of Exempt Accommodation, maybe it would have come up with a more comprehensive prescription for structural change in the funding of supported housing.

The Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report’s focus on “regulation” is unfortunate. I have been saying for a long time that the issue is not one of regulation, it’s one of accreditation and oversight. I note the Report does now use the term “oversight”, but unfortunately not of the services supported housing providers provide. The emphasis seems to be more on “regulatory oversight” of the supported housing providers themselves.

The Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report comments on the variable “quality of Exempt Accommodation” and refers to the National Statement of Expectations as a framework to focus on the housing element of Exempt Accommodation. It rightly emphasises the need for there to be recognised referral pathways into Exempt Accommodation.

Any of you involved in Exempt Accommodation on the ground will know that many local authorities already place significant emphasis on referral pathways into Exempt Accommodation as part of their efforts to manage their supported housing ecosystems.

The Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report also calls for a clear definition of “care, support and supervision” the provision of which on a “more than minimal basis” is a requirement of Exempt Accommodation compliance. It recommends a set of national standards for “referrals, support and accommodation” should be enforced by local authorities. It recommends that the UK Government should, within 12 months, publish national standards on:

  • Referrals processes
  • Care support and supervision
  • Housing quality
  • Information supported housing providers should give to residents

And that new funding should be given to local authorities to implement these.

Domestic Violence and Abuse.

On the issue of domestic abuse, the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report is more reassuring. I’m very aware of the fact that there is a proliferation of organisations offering housing to victims of domestic violence and abuse whilst having no specialist experience in this area.

This isn’t helped by local authorities routinely referring such people to non-specialist supported housing via their statutory homelessness obligations.

The Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report rightly recommends that Enhanced Housing Benefit, in this context, should only be paid to supported housing/refuge providers that “meet the standards in Part 4 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021” and that there should be an increased supply of such “relevant specialist services”.

Regulation and Oversight

My view has always been and remains that supported housing providers should be accredited (or not as the case may be) by local authorities exactly as they were under the Supporting People initiative, and that their services should be overseen by an independent agency using the three Value Generation principles.[1]

Unfortunately, the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report’s recommendations in respect to regulation and oversight is something of a dog’s breakfast. The report acknowledges, as I have consistently maintained, there are several regulators in the supported housing ecosystem, none of which has “complete oversight of the different elements of Exempt Accommodation”. It also observes that some supported housing providers are not regulated. It recommends the creation of “National Oversight Committee” to address the oversight of supported housing providers (but not the services they provide.) This committee should apparently be comprised of “existing regulators” (presumably the Regulator for Social Housing, Charity Commission and the CIC Regulator) which the Report describes as being “expert in their own areas”.

To be honest I do not believe that any of these regulators are remotely “expert” in supported housing in general or Exempt Accommodation in particular. My experience of the RSH, for example, is that it has never understood supported housing and that it tends to treat supported housing a “bolt on” to mainstream social housing. Its attempts to try and force rent structures for supported housing into the unviable “low-cost social housing” model as per section 69 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 is an illustration of this.

I reiterate that accreditation at local level would be a much stronger and more effective solution. We already have the Supporting People accreditation frameworks which could be refreshed and reused for this purpose. A “National Oversight Committee” on the terms suggested by the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report would add to the “complete mess” the Report identifies. The supported housing sector doesn’t need more regulation: it needs accreditation at local level and oversight on an independent basis.

What is perhaps even more alarming is the recommendation that supported housing providers should have to register as registered providers and its blithe dismissal of the fact that the Regulator for Social Housing has deliberately made it increasingly difficult for supported housing providers to register. The report states that “registration should not be unnecessarily onerous or expensive, and if it is that should change”.

Trying to register supported housing providers with the RSH is akin to trying to stuff a camel through the eye of a needle, and if it were a straightforward process we would end up with a situation where supported housing providers are forced to register with a regulator that doesn’t want them and doesn’t understand them. Furthermore, why should it be the case that, for example, supported housing provider charities and CICs, which are already regulated, are forced into the regulatory purview of another regulator? Private sector supported housing providers, some of which are very good, may simply cease to operate rather than be forced to register with the RSH.

A solution to this problem can be seen in the Exempt Accommodation Project, which brokers relationships between supported housing providers and community-based registered providers wherein the registered providers take leasehold interests in the supported housing providers’ properties, thus becoming the landlord.

This is a far simpler solution than trying to force supported housing providers to register as registered providers, and it does comply with the spirit of the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report’s rather misguided approach to this issue without making the mistakes of that approach.

The Exempt Accommodation Project needs more community based registered providers to get involved with us to work with supported housing providers. Please get in touch with me for more information about this.

Lease-Based Models

The Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report accepts that leased-based models similar to that used by the Exempt Accommodation Project are a necessary part of the supported housing ecosystem. It does, however, object to this model on a “for-profit” basis.

I absolutely understand the need to stamp out excessive profiteering through lease-based supported housing models, but the approach of the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report, which wants to “prohibit lease-based profit-making schemes from being set up” is frankly silly.

We definitely need to sort out the lease-based sheep from the goats, but the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report recommendations will also throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is a world of difference between the approach taken by excellent lease-based models used by social impact investors that look to establish high quality, transparently costed supported housing with an annual return in the region of 5-6% on the one hand, compared to others that grossly inflate the capital costs involved and then look for excessive percentage returns on their artificially inflated capital sum.

Supported housing absolutely needs private capital investment with acceptable rates of return for social impact investors. Is the UK Government about to announce large-scale public capital investment in supported housing? I doubt it somehow, and I think that the language used in this regard by the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report is positively dangerous for essential private capital social impact investment in supported housing that must rely on a reasonable profit-making lease-based model.


The Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report recommends that the UK Government, not for the first time, should “conduct a review of Housing Benefit claims to determine how much is being spent on what”.

It also says that “rent should be capped at a reasonable level to meet the higher costs of managing Exempt Accommodation”, a principle that I have proposed as part of my “Supported Housing Rent” proposition.

It is imperative in this context that local authorities resist the temptation to apply a cost control approach when establishing what a “reasonable level” is. A reasonable level is the actual cost of providing good quality supported housing on a transparent, open book basis, that the Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report wants to see.

The Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report states that “funding for support should be provided separately”. It doesn’t say how. Since the demise of Supporting People, “support” has hardly been funded at all. Whilst Enhanced Housing Benefit doesn’t fund “support”, the last few years, and especially since the DWP guidance of May this year, have seen an increasing pressure on the part of local authorities to restrict Enhanced Housing Benefit funding to strictly directly property-related tasks and functions. Please see the Supported Housing Blog for a list of routinely eligible Enhanced Housing Benefit tasks and functions.

It’s all very well for the UK Government to say that “funding for support should be provided separately”, but where is this funding?

The Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report also states that “the Government should also consider how to give councils greater control over rents for Exempt Accommodation to ensure value for money”. The DWP guidance mentioned above does do this to a certain extent, but a much more effective response would be to abolish the Exempt Accommodation Rules, as I’ve previously argued, replace Enhanced Housing Benefit with Supported Housing Rent, which should have reasonable local maxima and have a locally administered accreditation system for supported housing providers without which supported housing rent cannot be paid.


The Exempt Accommodation Inquiry Report recommends that all supported housing, irrespective of the number of people living in a particular scheme, should be subject to HMO licensing. This includes properties where the landlord is a registered provider.

This will have a detrimental impact on many existing supported housing schemes which may have to be reconfigured in order to comply. Any loss of capacity (i.e. room numbers) as a consequence will lead to a corresponding loss of revenue that may render it unviable. In addition, who is going to pay for the necessary work?

Many local authorities are currently rolling out selective licensing schemes for supported housing within which there should be mechanisms for ensuring health and safety within such supported housing schemes that do not currently require an HMO licence.

Blanket enforcement of HMO regulations is at best a crude instrument. HMO regulations are right and proper within the properties to which they were originally meant to apply. Applying them wholesale to the entirety of our supported housing stock will cause significant expense, potential loss of revenue on a permanent basis, unviability and, in some cases, will create an unnecessarily institutional environment in smaller supported housing schemes.


There is a saying that “hard cases make bad law” and I believe, unfortunately, that this is what we’re seeing here. With some exceptions, notably on domestic violence and abuse services, this Report is a missed opportunity based on an inadequate grasp of the supported housing ecosystem that it wishes to reform.

The preoccupation with “regulation” as opposed to local accreditation of supported housing providers and independent oversight of their services skews the focus and conclusions of the Report. Furthermore, the idea that the Regulator for Social Housing and the Charity Commission, for example, should be responsible for the “regulatory oversight” of supported housing providers and the development of national policy in this regard is akin to suggesting that the Football Association should oversee rugby clubs. Supported housing, in my opinion, does not need more regulation, especially from agencies that don’t fully understand it. It is, however, in desperate need of organisational accreditation and service delivery oversight systems.

The recommendation that no further “for profit leased-based” supported housing should be developed is a crude response to an undoubted problem. It would certainly get shot of dodgy developers after a fast buck, but it would also prevent good quality social impact investors from providing much needed (and inexpensive) private capital for supported housing in circumstances where public capital is scarce indeed and the need for supported housing is increasing, not decreasing.

Similarly, the insistence that all supported housing providers should register with the RSH and also be subject to HMO regulations is an impractical, kneejerk response that will cause huge problems.

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. The solution to the abuse of the Exempt Accommodation rules is to abolish those rules, reintroduce the organisational accreditation process to which supported housing providers were subject under Supporting People, introduce an independent (of local authorities and providers) service oversight system based on Value Generation principles, and pay Supported Housing Rent to accredited providers instead of enhanced Housing Benefit, which should be abolished along with the Exempt Accommodation rules.

[1] Outcomes for people (measured qualitatively), cost benefit to the public purse (measured quantitively) wider social and community benefit (measured qualitatively and quantitively).


The Problems with Exempt Accommodation


Back in 2005 the primary revenue funding stream for supported housing was “Supporting People funding”, a £1.8 billion UK wide funding pot that had been rolled out two years earlier but was already retrenching markedly. Supported housing providers were struggling to cope with revenue reductions after having been encouraged to grow their services by the government of the day, which then immediately set about restricting the Supporting People revenue upon which those schemes depended.

It was at that time that I and a few others identified a means of offsetting some of that revenue loss. We identified the existence of the Exempt Accommodation rules, an arcane set of regulations that entitled agencies that complied with them to claim enhanced levels of Housing Benefit for providing certain housing related services to people with additional needs. I reinvented the term “intensive housing management” to describe those services and set about promoting the Exempt Accommodation rules, enhanced Housing Benefit, and intensive housing management to the supported housing sector. Over 15 years later, enhanced Housing Benefit has become the primary funding stream for supported housing totalling around £1 billion per year.


I hope you’ll forgive me for taking pride in having been instrumental in creating that £1 billion revenue pot. However, in addition to a sense of pride I also have a sense of intense anger at the fact that the Exempt Accommodation rules have been roundly abused by organisations and individuals that have made massive amounts of money, and still do, through the wholesale financial abuse of people with additional needs.

Housing Benefit, whether enhanced or not, is a personal benefit. This personal benefit is being diverted into the pockets of dubiously motivated people on an industrial scale.

To qualify your tenants for enhanced Housing Benefit you must be an “exempt landlord”: put simply; a “housing association”, a charity or voluntary organisation.

The Exempt Accommodation rules were devised in 1996 to prevent ill motivated private landlords from robbing the Housing Benefit system by providing poor quality bed-and-breakfast accommodation to homeless people and charging the local authority a fortune for it. The government of the day introduced the Exempt Accommodation rules to restrict private landlords to Local Reference Rent levels (now known as Local Housing Allowance). Certain landlords, identified above, were exempt from those rent levels, so exempt landlords could claim enhanced levels of Housing Benefit.

What has happened since enhanced Housing Benefit became a major revenue stream is that certain individuals have abused the system by setting up allegedly exempt landlord structures, which are nothing more than badly motivated private businesses masquerading as exempt accommodation compliant supported housing providers.

These businesses are exploiting the Exempt Accommodation rules to use them for the very opposite purpose for which they were intended, which was to prevent, not enable, the abuse of peoples’ Housing Benefit entitlements.

But it’s not just dubious supported housing providers, which milk the system and provide poor quality accommodation and minimal or non-existent services that are the problem. Commercial greed has affected the entire supported housing ecosystem.

Private Capital

Don’t get me wrong here; I absolutely believe that private capital is essential for the development of new supported housing schemes. Whether you fund supported housing, commission supported housing, deliver it, or measure its quality you need to do so according to a set of principles. A few years ago, I devised “Value Generation” as this set of principles:

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

So, if you don’t generate value you shouldn’t be involved in supported housing.

Just as many supported housing providers do a brilliant job for people with additional needs, some private capital providers do the same thing. To get an idea of what I mean you could do worse than to book onto our free virtual supported housing conference 2022. One of the sessions will be led by Assetz Exchange, which acquires and leases property for supported housing and whose investors can expect a yield of in the region of 5%, which is entirely reasonable and is an exercise in Value Generation.

By comparison, I’m aware of other private capital providers who think that 9%, 10%, 12% or 15% yields are reasonable and some of which would think nothing of using dubious valuation methodologies as a means of inflating the property lease cost for enhanced Housing Benefit claim purposes. Often the only value being generated in such examples is financial value to investors and shareholders at the expense of services for people with additional needs, who are supposed to be the point of and the priority for supported housing.

The Invasion of the Supported Housing Ecosystem & the Response to it

Many of the money motivated private capital providers have made common cause with equally money motivated registered providers, which in turn work with supported housing provider agencies that take on the identity of CICs and other allegedly non-profit structures.

This has led to an invasion of the supported housing ecosystem by people and organisations who know how to play the system for financial gain.

This influx of the uninvited has led to significant pressure on local authorities and enhanced Housing Benefit. Alleged supported housing providers, whether connected to dubiously motivated private capital or not, have popped up all over the place, usually in the form of a CIC, and demanded enhanced Housing Benefit for alleged supported housing services that no one asked them to provide.

One of the consequences of this is the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing, published by the UK government (England only) in October 2020, which tells local authorities to restrict the number of new supported housing “market entrants”, to restrict the payment of enhanced Housing Benefit (without actually using those words) and exhorts commissioners and revenues and benefits teams to work together in the administration of enhanced Housing Benefit.

“Inside Housing” magazine continues to run an information campaign on the uncontrolled growth of exempt accommodation. Thea Raisbeck on behalf of Commonweal Housing and Spring Housing published “Exempt From Responsibility?“, which focuses in particular on Birmingham; an outlier in exempt accommodation abuse with 22,000 exempt accommodation bed spaces. Many of these are in poor quality housing within which negligible or no services are provided, but which attract high levels of enhanced Housing Benefit. Where does that money go, I wonder?

But it’s not just Birmingham, bad though the situation is there. The MHCLG (now the DLUHC) set up five exempt accommodation pilots in Birmingham, Hull, Bristol, Blackburn and Blackpool all of which are exempt accommodation “hotspots”. Those pilots recently reported.

The “Supported Housing Oversight Pilots” evaluation report is heavily qualified methodologically and contains a plea for more funding for further evaluation. This wish appears to have been partially met by the UK government’s recent announcement of £20m towards a Supported Housing Improvement Programme.

The report recommends that “care, support and supervision” (an Exempt Accommodation rule criterion) should be defined and that regulations around rent levels and subsidy rules should be reviewed. The temptation to use this as a means of exercising cost control rather than Value Generation must be resisted. It might sound a bit “old hat” of me to say that investment in preventative services such as supported housing saves a fortune in otherwise avoidable statutory interventions, but it’s still true. The point should be to deny revenue to dodgy operators, not restrict revenue to good ones.

The report also reflects the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing in saying that local authorities should be able to intervene to stop new supported housing supply where it is unnecessary or of poor quality. Many local authorities have set up “gateway” arrangements which prospective supported housing providers have to go through, rather than just setting up and applying for enhanced Housing Benefit.

Rather confusingly, the report claims that “local authorities’ oversight of support is currently limited by existing regulation….”. It seems to me that there is a distinct difference between regulation on the one hand (and the supported housing sector has several regulators) and oversight on the other, which pretty much doesn’t exist. In my view, ALL supported housing providers should be subject to local accreditation as they were during the Supporting People initiative. No accreditation should mean no funding.

Oversight should be based on an independently developed and implemented oversight system based on Value Generation principles.

Given the prominence of some registered providers in what has become the exempt accommodation industry, the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) in England has sanctioned several exempt accommodation registered providers. The modus operandi of some of those registered providers is to use associated private companies to charge large amounts of money often for unspecified services to supported housing providers (both good and bad) that work as their agents. Let’s do the maths here; if for example, a registered provider has 5000 agency managed bed spaces and an associated private company charges 10% of the rent roll to those agencies (for unspecified services that may not be provided), given an average weekly enhanced Housing Benefit charge of, say, £200 a week, it’s making £5.2 million per year. Where is this money going?

Thus far the RSH has claimed it has no control over third party organisations associated with registered providers, even in circumstances of apparent “disguised profit”. However, that is about to change as a consequence of legislative changes to sections 107, 108, 203 and 208 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008, which will give the RSH “look through” powers to demand that registered providers explain where money that has left the regulated sector has gone, and not before time.

The UK government DLUHC is currently conducting an Inquiry into Exempt Accommodation. You can see my submission to that enquiry here. The thrust of my submission is that Exempt Accommodation as a concept should be abolished, that enhanced Housing Benefit should be abolished and replaced with “Supported Housing Rent“, which is an uncapped housing component of Universal Credit, that all supported housing providers should be accredited at local level (as they were under “Supporting People”) and that there should be an independent oversight system for Supported Housing  based on Value Generation principles.

At time of writing the Inquiry is ongoing, but we will be updating you on any progress it makes at our supported housing conference 2022 which, I repeat, is a free event. At time of writing, we have 800 bookings across the six separate components of the conference.

The Exempt Accommodation Project.

One of the serious implications of the abuse of the Exempt Accommodation rules and enhanced Housing Benefit is that local authorities have, in many cases, implemented quite stringent interpretations of the National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing by making it much harder for supported housing providers to claim enhanced Housing Benefit. I can quite understand their position, but it affects genuine supported housing providers as well as their dubious counterparts.

In addition to making it harder to claim enhanced Housing Benefit, some local authorities have told supported housing providers to register as registered providers. This is because where a registered provider is the landlord a local authority can recover from the DWP all the enhanced Housing Benefit it pays. Where a charity or voluntary organisations the landlord in an exempt accommodation/enhanced Housing Benefit claim, the local authority can only recover 60% of the difference between the Local Housing Allowance rate and the amount of the claim, so the local authority will lose a lot of money if it pays the claim.

However, the RSH has an effective embargo on registering new supported housing registered providers, again due to the conduct of those wrongly motivated supported housing registered providers, many of which have been sanctioned by the RSH.

Our solution to this is the Exempt Accommodation Project, which brokers relationships between reputable supported housing providers and reputable registered providers to enable local authorities to pay reasonable, well-founded enhanced Housing Benefit claims without loss of subsidy.

Talk To Us

If you represent a reputable supported housing provider struggling to claim enhanced Housing Benefit, or a reputable registered provider willing to take a short-term lease on a supported housing provider’s property for a good revenue stream please contact us.

Finally, if you’re looking for values driven professional consultancy advice and support in supported housing, please get in touch.

Finance & Funding Policy

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


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.


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.


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 in the body of your email and telling them that it’s less than a 5 minute read.

Kerry McCarthy:  

Mr Clive Betts:

Shabana Mahmood:  

Steve McCabe:

Bob Blackman:

Helen Hayes:

Fleur Anderson:

Tim Loughton:

Andrew Selous: 

Mohammad Yasin:  

Munira Wilson:

Andrew Gwynne: 


The National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing


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.


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.


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

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 07376737675

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.


The Oversight of Supported Housing


The purpose of this blog post is to identify the high-level principles for the regulation of supported housing and for the assessment of the value generated by supported housing. Collectively we might call this “oversight”. The details of both systems are content for a future, longer published briefing (watch this space).

Supported housing accommodates between 600-700,000 people in the UK, some of whom have high levels of additional need. Supported housing providers receive over £4 billion annually in Housing Benefit/Universal Credit revenue together with contributions from the people they accommodate and, in some cases, statutory sector top-up funding as well.


No one is responsible for the oversight of supported housing. Some might argue that there are plenty of regulators in the supported housing sector: the various national social housing regulators, the Charity Commission in England and Wales, the OSCR in Scotland. To a greater or lesser extent these agencies might regulate supported housing providers, but they don’t oversee supported housing or what it does, and they probably shouldn’t try.

Supported housing accommodates a wide range of additional need and there is a need for oversight. I’ve made reference a number of times recently to Thea Raisbeck’s “Exempt From Responsibility?” Paper, part of which looks with concern the unregulated Exempt Accommodation sector.

There is a distinction between regulation on the one hand and the measurement of quality/assessment of value on the other, although there is a relationship between them as “oversight” functions.

Regulation & the Assessment of Value

Regulation might include the ongoing assessment of:

  • Governance/organisational competence
  • Financial security and stability (calibrated to accommodate a diversity of specialist supported housing providers)
  • Service delivery competence
  • Values

Any system for “measuring” (assessing) the value of what supported housing does, separately from regulating the organisations that provide it, should be based on Value Generation principles:

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

We have the opportunity here to put something in place that works. Whilst the UK has increasingly divergent health and social care systems, the regulatory and value assessment approaches I’m setting out have potential applicability across the 4 nations.

Some of you may recall the QAF (Quality Assessment Framework), compliance with which was required for Supporting People funding, although not all supported housing providers had Supporting People funding. In addition to QAF compliance, supported housing providers had to submit performance returns (SPPIs). Over time, these returns became increasingly compromised by the “cost control” bias applied to them by local authorities seeking cost savings. This in turn encouraged some providers to describe the service delivery outcomes in unjustifiably positive terms in order to maintain their less than adequate funding.

Consider this example, which is true. Someone with a high level of additional need who lives in supported housing runs up high arrears, threatens other people and causes significant property damage. That person is then moved by the (regulated) supported housing provider into private sector accommodation without recourse to eviction (this was pre-Covid 19), and this is described as “planned move on”. The planned move on enables the supported housing provider to tick the “successful outcome” box in contractual compliance terms when what they actually did was to pass unresolved need to another part of the system.

Neither the system for assessing value (Value Generation) or the regulatory framework it sits next to should be operationally onerous for providers of supported housing. The oversight tail shouldn’t wag the operational dog on a day-to-day basis.

Smaller and specialist providers often struggle to comply with finance and governance regulation requirements. Regulation systems should adjust themselves to the safe operating parameters of all supported housing providers, not vice versa.

Systems for regulating supported housing providers and for assessing the value they generate should be developed independently by universities or other social policy research bodies as national frameworks (by which I mean separate frameworks to suit the particular characteristics of the health and social care system in each nation).

It would be appropriate for the body that develops the regulatory and value assessment frameworks to then operate them independently from but in conjunction with the agencies that commission and fund the supported housing. This would break the link between funding and the assessment of value, which needs to happen lest we focus on the cost of everything and the value of nothing.


Supported housing oversight is essential. It accommodates high levels of additional need and receives significant public and other revenue.

An oversight system comprised of regulatory and value assessment components should be independently developed and then implemented/managed by a university or social policy agency.

Regulation should accommodate diversity and specialism: it should not discriminate in favour of scale.

Oversight as a whole should maximise security and quality of outcome for people without impinging on supported housing providers’ service delivery resources.

There is change to the social and healthcare landscapes throughout the UK. The evolution of health and social care should include seeing supported housing as an integrated part of the different systems within the 4 nations. For this to occur it is important for supported housing to have the type of oversight I have described.