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Government publishes Select Committee report on exempt accommodation

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has published the Select Committee report on exempt accommodation, which the Committee defines as accommodation exempt from locally set caps on housing benefit.

The report sets out the Committee’s findings in respect of:

  • Quality of exempt accommodation – “It is clear from our inquiry that some residents’ experiences of exempt accommodation are beyond disgraceful, and that some people’s situations actually deteriorate as a result of the shocking conditions in which they live”
  • National Standards – “During our inquiry we received compelling evidence that there need to be national standards for referrals, support, and accommodation and that local authorities are best placed to enforce them”
  • Domestic abuse – “We also found that organisations with no expertise are able to target survivors of domestic abuse and their children and provide neither specialist support nor an appropriate or safe environment”
  • Regulation and oversight – “The exempt accommodation sector comprises different types of providers, and as such it requires the involvement of multiple regulators. However, some providers do not fall under the remit of any regulator, and no regulator has complete oversight of the different elements of exempt accommodation. As a result, we have found that the patchwork regulation of exempt accommodation has too many holes”
  • Data inadequacy – “The dearth of data on exempt accommodation shows how successive Governments have been caught sleeping. Due to this scarcity of data on exempt accommodation, Exempt Accommodation 5 our inquiry was, for example, unable to establish how widespread the very worst experiences are either among residents or among local communities nor how many exempt accommodation claimants and providers there are”
  • Funding – “Millions of pounds are being poured into exempt housing benefit with no guarantee that vulnerable residents will get the support they need. In some cases, vulnerable residents who are likely to have low incomes have to pay for support out of their own pockets”
  • Planning – “Evidence to our inquiry made clear that there is a limit to what local strategies for exempt accommodation can achieve without planning reforms. Councils need the ability to manage supply in line with locally assessed need” and
  • Models of accommodation – “Throughout our inquiry we sought to establish whether an appropriate balance was being struck across the different models of exempt accommodation and whether they affected the quality of provision. While it was possible to find good and bad providers, regardless of whether they were registered or commissioned or neither, it was clear that the multitude of models of exempt accommodation produces a complex landscape with no guarantee of quality”.