Categories
Finance & Funding Policy

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

Introduction

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

Enhanced Housing Benefit and the Exempt Accommodation Rules

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

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

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

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

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

The Exempt Accommodation Project

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

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

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

Exempt Accommodation Project Flowchart

Exempt Accommodation Project Flowchart
Exempt Accommodation Project Flowchart

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

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

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

The Accreditation and Oversight of Supported Housing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Patterson

August 2021


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

Categories
Uncategorized

The Exempt Accommodation Project

Background

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

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

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

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

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

The Exempt Accommodation Project

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

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

How does the Exempt Accommodation Project work?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Exempt Accommodation Project Flowchart

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

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

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

ClouDigs Supported Housing Management System

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Involved

Please get in touch if:

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

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

Michael Patterson

June 2021

Categories
Finance & Funding

Intensive Housing Management & Enhanced Housing Benefit

A List of Routinely Eligible Intensive Housing Management Tasks & Functions

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

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

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

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

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

Context

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

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

Intensive Housing Management List

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

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

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

Categories
Finance & Funding

Claiming Enhanced Housing Benefit for Intensive Housing Management

Context

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

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

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

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

What Are Enhanced Housing Benefit & Intensive Housing Management?

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

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

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

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

Why You Should Consider Enhanced Housing Benefit & Intensive Housing Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why You Should Think About It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Policy

Exempt Accommodation, Specified Accommodation & Intensive Housing Management

Introduction

This was written in 2015 & remains relevant today.

The purpose of this Briefing is: 

  • To explain what Exempt and Specified Accommodation is and to make clear my view that most “Specified Accommodation” is actually “Exempt Accommodation”
  • To explain the Welfare Reform Act implications of Exempt and Specified Accommodation
  • To give comprehensive examples of Additional/Intensive Housing Management tasks and functions
  • To examine the future for Enhanced Housing Benefit and Additional/Intensive Housing Management

In recent months there has been much discussion about Exempt Accommodation and Specified Accommodation and a great deal of confusion about the difference between “Exempt” and “Specified” Accommodation.

The purpose of this briefing is to define what these definitions really mean and to make the very important point that most supported and sheltered housing, hostels and refuges currently being defined as “Specified Accommodation” but not “Exempt Accommodation” are actually Exempt Accommodation. This is very important for providers and local authorities from a financial point of view and to tenants/licensees from a Welfare Reform protection perspective.

As you may know the UK Government had said in 2012 that tenants in Exempt Accommodation would have the housing component of their Universal Credit administered outside of Universal Credit according to the Exempt Accommodation rules and would be protected from elements of the Welfare Reform Act (described below). Lord Freud, the UK Government Welfare Reform Minister, also subsequently said (September 2012) that there are some supported and sheltered housing services that “don’t meet the precise definition of Exempt Accommodation”. Such schemes, it is argued, might include agency-managed services and services providing “insufficient care, support and supervision”. We believe very strongly that, in the vast majority of cases, agency-managed schemes may well be Exempt Accommodation, and certainly can be established as Exempt Accommodation with some minor adjustments to the documentary arrangements in place.

The DWP then proceeded, in consultation with parts of the sector, to devise a widened definition that would capture both Exempt Accommodation and also those schemes that it claimed “don’t meet the precise definition of Exempt Accommodation”. This widened definition is known as “Specified Accommodation”.

So What Is Specified Accommodation?

There are 4 categories of “Specified Accommodation” as follows:

Category 1: Exempt Accommodation.

The term “Exempt Accommodation” came into being in 1995 as a means of identifying types of accommodation that were exempt from what was known at the time as “Local Reference Rents”, which capped the amounts of rent that private landlords could charge.

For an Exempt Accommodation scenario to exist ALL of the following 4 criteria must be fulfilled:

  • The landlord must be a non-metropolitan county council; voluntary organisation, charity or Registered Provider (housing association)
  • The landlord must have legal interest in the properties concerned (ownership or lease)
  • The tenants concerned must need “care, support & supervision” (in case law terms this means “more than normal property management functions)
  • The additional services to meet those needs (“Additional/Intensive Housing Management”) must be provided by the landlord or an agent on its behalf

Exempt Accommodation:

  • Entitles a social landlord to recover the costs of providing additional services to tenants/residents with additional needs via Housing Benefit.
  • Enables local authorities to fund enhanced levels of Housing Benefit, subject to a properly evidenced claim which shows that the money claimed equates to the cost of eligible additional services provided.
  • Enables local authorities to reclaim the money from the DWP via their Subsidy Claim. 100% where a Registered Provider (Housing Association) is involved but less where one is not.

Exempt Accommodation protects tenants from Welfare Reform Act provisions such as:

  • Spare Room Subsidy (“Bedroom Tax”)
  • Benefit Cap
  • Direct payment of rent

Exempt Accommodation applies, subject to the 4 qualifying criteria above, to:

  • Most supported Housing
  • Most sheltered Housing
  • General Needs Housing where the tenant has additional needs (Tenancy Sustainment)

Category 2: Supported housing where a third party (not the landlord) provides the “care, support & supervision”

Typically this would include agency-managed supported housing and schemes where tenants have personal budgets and purchase care packages from a third party provider.

As a consequence of this definition and some of the advice that has been provided within the sector, many providers have assumed that agency-managed schemes and accommodation within which tenants use personal budgets to buy care packages from third parties are not Exempt Accommodation. However, this assumption is very often incorrect.

We have to ask ourselves the question “what is care, support and supervision”? The case law definition (see Bristol City Council vs. AW [2009] and CSH/250/2104) is “more than normal property management functions”. So where a tenant has additional needs that require additional/intensive housing management and the landlord or an agent on its behalf provides the additional/intensive housing management, it is Exempt Accommodation, not Specified Accommodation category 2.

When we think about, it in most of the schemes wrongly classified as Specified Accommodation category 2, the landlord and/or the agent on its behalf provide Housing Benefit eligible additional/intensive housing management services in addition to and irrespective of any Housing Benefit ineligible care and support services that might also be provided. The fact that these additional/intensive housing management services are provided by the landlord or by an agent on the landlord’s behalf means that the scheme/service is Exempt Accommodation.

Such additional or intensive housing management services include, but are not limited to:

  • General needs housing management functions that are more intensively provided as a consequence of the additional needs of tenants
  • Additional or intensive housing management functions and tasks that would not be provided in general needs accommodation where no additional needs exist. Such tasks and functions include but are not limited to:
  • The provision of an alarm (even though alarms are not HB eligible) or the Housing Proactive system (which is HB eligible and is also entirely free to providers and tenants who are HB eligible)
  • Controlling access to the premises (concierge type services)
  • Ensuring rent is paid regularly and on time.
  • Explaining the occupancy agreement and assisting people to abide by it.
  • Organising inspections of property and arranging for any repairs or improvements to be carried out, including the replacement of furniture.
  • Ensuring that people are aware of their rights under their occupancy agreement.
  • Offering advice and guidance on keeping property to a reasonable standard of hygiene.
  • Assisting people to access other support providers as required.
  • Liaising with all relevant agencies, both statutory and voluntary, on the tenant’s behalf.
  • 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 Housing Benefit and other welfare benefits.
  • Helping to keep people safe by monitoring visitors, including contractors and professionals, and by carrying out health and safety and risk assessments of property.

Please see Appendix 1 for the technical definition of what constitutes an HB eligible service charge where people have additional needs. This is very useful where you are told “there’s no such thing as “Intensive Housing Management”, which of course misses the point by focusing on an informal phrase that describes services that people with additional needs might require in connection with the provision of adequate accommodation.

Category 3: refuge provision

Refuges for people subject to domestic violence and abuse are in an identical situation to Category 2 Specified Accommodation (above), which is that in the significant majority of cases they are Exempt Accommodation and not Specified Accommodation category 3.

The fact that people in refuge accommodation don’t also need to be in receipt of “care, support or supervision” by way of 3rd party funding is immaterial in this context as they will almost inevitably be in receipt of “more than normal housing management functions” anyway and therefore fulfill the case law definition of “care, support and supervision” for the purposes of Exempt Accommodation compliance.

Category 4: local authority hostels

Support Solutions UK has recently undertaken a lot of work with local authorities that have their own direct provision. Most local authorities are registered as registered social landlords with the appropriate regulatory bodies depending on which UK nation they are located in.

The fact of being a registered social landlord (and assuming compliance with the other 3 of the 4 Exempt Accommodation criteria, which is likely in the case of hostels and other accommodation for people with additional needs) means that local authority hostels are exempt Accommodation, not Category 4 Specified Accommodation.

Specified Accommodation categories 2, 3 and 4 means:

  • Protection from Benefit Cap & direct payment of rent but NOT Spare Room Subsidy (unlike Exempt Accommodation, which protects tenants/licensees from Spare Room Subsidy).
  • No guarantee of enhanced Housing Benefit if the rents are deemed “unreasonably high” as the local authority may refer the rent to the Rent Officer (unlike Exempt Accommodation, with which the local authority has to have regard for the costs of suitable accommodation elsewhere on a like for like basis if considering a restriction on rent or service charge)
  • Rent levels restricted to Local Housing Allowance where no Registered Provider is involved

If it is the case, as we strongly believe, that services that really are Exempt Accommodation (or “Specified Accommodation Category 1”) are being misdefined as Specified Accommodation Categories 2, 3 or 4 then we are guilty of failing to challenge an incorrect view of services that “don’t meet the precise definition of Exempt Accommodation” and consequently restricting Welfare Reform Act protection from tenants with additional needs and we are guilty of foregoing the opportunity to properly fund services for tenants with additional needs.

The Future for Enhanced Housing Benefit

I have worked since 2005 to assist organisations to allocate Additional/Intensive Housing Management costs into Housing Benefit where it is right and proper to do so. Most commonly this occurs where provider organisations have lost revenue from Supporting People but also where providers have not recovered their full eligible costs from Housing Benefit, irrespective of whether they receive Supporting People funding.

When I first introduced this idea with Support Solutions and reintroduced the concept of “Intensive Housing Management” it was treated by some with opposition and suspicion but has now become the default position for local authorities and providers, especially where Supporting People funding is being reduced or withdrawn. We were told that it wouldn’t survive the Welfare Reform Act but, on the contrary, Exempt Accommodation and Additional/Intensive Housing Management has become the gateway to proper levels of funding for services for people with additional needs and provides protection for such people from elements of the Welfare Reform Act such as:

  • Spare Room Subsidy (“Bedroom Tax”)
  • Benefit Cap
  • Direct payment of rent

Enhanced Housing Benefit applies to supported and sheltered housing and to general needs social accommodation where tenants have additional needs (Tenancy Sustainment services). But we have to ask the question, as many do, “how long will it last”?

When Lord Freud said in September 2012 that there are services that “don’t meet the precise definition of Exempt Accommodation” as a precursor to the introduction of Specified Accommodation, he also suggested that funding for Exempt Accommodation would be “localised” at some point in future.

We believe that this is likely to happen at some point in future so it is important for providers who are entitled to claim Enhanced Housing Benefit for Additional/Intensive Housing Management services to do so. It is also important for local authorities to agree well-founded and reasonable claims, as these are likely to contribute to local authority legacy funding going forward. To the extent that local authorities discourage such claims is the extent to which they may well limit the size of their own funding pot at the point at which the Exempt Accommodation budget is devolved. The UK Government might consider devolving Exempt Accommodation funding in the same way that it devolved Council Tax funding to local authorities (i.e. by taking the amount each local authority had claimed from the UK Government by way of Council Tax Benefit subsidy in the financial year 2012-13, deducting 10% and then devolving it to local authorities from April 2013).

There is a General Election looming of course, so things may change; however, our belief is that funding for Exempt Accommodation will be devolved to local authorities in England, which doesn’t have its own Government, and possibly to national Governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

We know that the DCLG & DWP have commissioned a review of the scale, shape and cost of the supported housing sector. We hope that it also considers its value! This review has yet to report and the forthcoming General Election will doubtless impact on the timing of its publication and possibly its outcomes. We will keep you posted as to developments when we are made aware of them.

Whatever the nature of any change please consider your organisation’s position, whether you’re a provider of services or a local authority Housing Benefit or commissioning colleague. Providers, both statutory and non-statutory, should ensure that they have reviewed their Housing Benefit revenue and their rent structures to ensure that their claims match the costs of the Additional/Intensive Housing Management services they provide to people with additional needs in supported, sheltered, hostel, refuge and general needs accommodation. I will help you do this and negotiate your claims for you on very, very favourable commercial terms as I always have (i.e. if we don’t successfully increase your housing revenue, you don’t pay us). Local authorities should also consider their strategic positions in relation to the payment of enhanced Housing Benefit for well-founded and reasonable claims and their ability to reclaim through subsidy what they pay by way of Enhanced Housing Benefit; again, I will be pleased to assist in this.

If and when funding for Exempt Accommodation is devolved it is likely to become a cash-limited pot, which may then be paid according to a limited set of eligible tasks. We believe that this is the wrong approach but inevitable whilst government at both central and local level prioritises cost over value and persists with separate funding pots for different types of additional needs (e.g. intensive housing management, support, social care, personal care etc.).

Appendix 1

“There is no exhaustive list of what can be defined as an eligible service charge. To be an eligible charge for HB purposes the charge must be connected with the provision of adequate accommodation having regard to the personal needs of that tenant group. Authority for this can be found in the DWP Adjudication Circular A22/2008, which was published in December 2008. Page 18 within Appendix A of that circular states that ‘The Commissioner’s decision in CIS 1460/1995 is authority for the proposition that the individual needs of the residents are relevant to the question of what is adequate accommodation. Arguably the special needs and problems of the residents of the home cannot be ignored in relation to paragraph 1(g)’ Paragraph 1(g) of Schedule 1 is of the Housing Benefit Regulations and relates to the service being connected to the provision of adequate accommodation. This is therefore suggesting that a service can be eligible having regard to a resident’s personal circumstances. The general population within supported housing are vulnerable people all in receipt of care and support and thus encompass a specific set of needs therefore the provision of an intensive housing management service is probably essential to the general tenant population of this specific type of accommodation.

Supported Housing is provided to primarily tenants who are disadvantaged with a wide range of complex and changing needs. There are a significant proportion of tenants whose high support needs, poor housing management awareness and lack of practical skills, mean that there is a requirement for a much more enhanced housing management provision to ensure that the tenants can sustain their tenancy whilst at the same time ensure that the landlord is providing reasonable and adequate accommodation for all tenants”

Please contact Michael Patterson if you’d like help with Exempt Accommodation, Specified Accommodation and enhanced Housing Benefit.

Please feel free to share this Briefing with whomsoever might find it interesting and please share it on social media.

© Please acknowledge the author as Michael Patterson when reproduced in whole or in part (Creative Commons licence applies).

Michael Patterson

March 2015

Categories
Finance & Funding

Funding Intensive Housing Management

Many of you will know what “Intensive Housing Management” is. It’s a term that the old Housing Corporation in England used to describe the additional housing management services that people in supported housing often need. Intensive Housing Management services were funded by the Housing Corporation through a revenue grant known (latterly) as SHMG (Supported Housing Management Grant) some of which was often paid on by RSLs to their specialist agency partners that typically manage the RSL’s supported housing.

The set of prescribed intensive housing management services was defined in hardcopy in the Housing Corporation’s “Guide to Supported Housing”, before the age of the Internet. There is a similar list you can gain access to online here: in Scottish statutory instruments 2002 number 444 with its list of “Prescribed Housing Support Services” in Regulation 3.

The revenue funding streams for intensive housing management were put into the Supporting People pot in 2003, to help fund what became known as “Housing Related Support”. And that, you might think, was the end of that.

Except that it wasn’t. Supporting People begin to retrench very quickly. In 2005 Michael Patterson and Danny Key teamed up to identify and promote a regulatory means of mitigating providers’ losses of Supporting People revenue, by claiming the cost of eligible Intensive Housing Management tasks from Housing Benefit. This involves the use of the Exempt Accommodation route to enhanced levels of Housing Benefit. 

Over time this led to a substantial number of eligible providers (housing associations and voluntary agencies namely) being able to claim enhanced levels of Housing Benefit for the costs of the eligible housing management tasks Supporting People no longer funded.

Michael Patterson renamed these eligible housing management tasks as “Intensive Housing Management”, a term which has returned to the language of supported housing, bringing with it a substantial pot of revenue known as enhanced Housing Benefit, which continues to exist to this day.

We are cautious who we work with, especially given the large numbers of new, unregulated supported housing services being set up. As someone with a values base I commend the “Exempt From Responsibility?” report written by Thea Raisbeck in November 2019 for Spring/Commonweal Housing, which identifies problems over the lack of regulation of supported housing, and the oversight of the system through which some landlords claimed enhanced Housing Benefit. To put it more bluntly: some unregulated supported housing providers are claiming Housing Benefit but apparently not providing adequate housing or intensive housing management services.

Not all supported housing providers are eligible for intensive housing management funding, but most social supported housing providers are. Rather than go through the criteria for Exempt Accommodation compliance here (but watch this space) just ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you a genuinely social organisation? (For the purposes of enhanced Housing Benefit this means nonprofit)
  • Do you generate value?
    • Outcomes for people
    • Cost-benefit
    • Wider social benefit (Community Sustainment)
  • Do you own or manage supported housing?.

If you can say yes to the above questions you’re likely to be eligible to claim Intensive Housing Management and Maintenance funding. It’s a complex process that requires you (or me on your behalf on a ‘no increase, no fee’ basis) to audit your supported housing and provide a properly optimised rent structure that can be used to support an enhanced Housing Benefit claim.

If you represent a social supported housing provider and you’d like to discuss claiming enhanced Housing Benefit, please contact me.

It’s also important to consider the likely future funding of Intensive Housing Management and Maintenance, and supported housing in general for that matter. I’ll keep the wider context for a future blog post/briefing but what about the Intensive Housing Management components of supported housing revenue, currently paid as enhanced Housing Benefit?

We should bear in mind both the implementation of Universal Credit and the UK Government’s (stalled) “future funding of supported housing” policy agenda.

Universal Credit allows supported housing claimants to have the housing component of their Universal Credit paid by local Housing Benefit teams as enhanced Housing Benefit. The future funding of supported housing policy agenda originally intended to pass supported housing revenue, of which Intensive Housing Management funding is a substantial part, to local authorities but that idea was parked.

Nothing much has happened on the supported housing policy agenda due to the UK Government’s preoccupation with Brexit and the current Covid 19 pandemic. But the UK Government is working on a Social Care Bill, and they would be remiss to omit supported housing from it.

It seems opportune therefore to remind the UK Government and the wider sector that Intensive Housing Management funding needs to stay exactly where it is now – as a flexible component of Universal Credit.

Going back to the “Exempt From Responsibility?” report, and my own briefings going back some years, it’s not just about the future funding of supported housing, important though that is. It’s also about supported housing regulation, it’s about how we define supported housing and it’s about what values base we apply to supported housing.

I’ll be publishing more blog posts and briefings in future you can see and follow my blog site (supportedhousing.blog) Please also follow me on Twitter at @MPattersonLtd