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Action to tackle exploitation is paying off

West Devon Borough Council has welcomed news that measures may soon be taken to close a benefits loophole which is allowing some landlords of supported accommodation to exploit the system.

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Following this news, Cllr Neil Jory Leader of West Devon Borough Council said: "We have been working hard to bring this issue to the Government's attention as a matter of urgency, and I am pleased that they have listened to our concerns and have responded with action.  This is a really positive step forward."

When explaining the measures that will be put in place, Eddie Hughes, the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Rough Sleeping and Housing said: "We are aware of a minority of landlords who charge high rents for poor quality accommodation and little or no support.

"I wish to inform the House of the Government's intention to bring forward measures to put an end to unscrupulous landlords exploiting some of the most vulnerable in our society."

The measures outlined by Parliamentary Under Secretary for Rough Sleeping and Housing include:

  • Minimum standards for the support provided to residents, to ensure they receive the good quality support they expect and deserve in order to live as independently as possible and achieve their personal goals;
  • New powers for local authorities in England to better manage their local supported housing market and ensure no individual falls through the cracks;
  • Changes to Housing Benefit regulations to seek to define care, support and supervision to improve quality across all specified supported housing provision.

They also announced that a £20 million Supported Housing Improvement programme to work with local authorities on pilot schemes and develop best practice models.

Eddie Hughes said: "Local authorities have been able to crack down on rogue landlords and ensure supported housing is providing adequate, tailored support and good-quality accommodation for its residents. This work is critical to maintain scrutiny of rogue providers while Government works to develop and implement longer-term measures."

Sir Geoffrey Cox MP, Member of Parliament for Torridge and West Devon said: "I am delighted that the hard work of a great number of people at West Devon Borough Council and elsewhere, to whom I am extremely grateful, and the strong representations we have made to the government have at last resulted in the termination of this abuse. The was system designed to support the vulnerable, not be used by predatory companies exploiting loopholes for excessive gains. West Devon Borough Council was the first council to raise the issue anywhere in the country and having drawn it to my attention, this abusive practice will no longer be able to milk the public purse".  

In recent months West Devon Borough Council has been working closely with partners on this issue, submitting reports to Downing Street and making submissions to The Department for Levelling Up & Communities (DLUC). Partners included:

  • Devon County Council,
  • the Regulator of Social Housing,
  • the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) 
  • the Local Government Association (LGA) and
  • District Councils Network (DCN),

They had raised concerns that the present system was open to abuse.  This is where exempt accommodation involves an investment fund. The Council believed that some of this type accommodation was being set up to maximise the amount of housing benefit that could be claimed, by ensuring that it falls outside the usual caps placed on housing benefit claims. 

West Devon Borough Council have now been invited to attend the Houses of Parliament to give evidence to an inquiry into exempt accommodation by the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee. 

Cllr Neil Jory added: "The measures set out in Mr Hughes' statement are exactly what we have been calling for and we look forward to working with Government to develop these measures further.  We all want to ensure that residents get the good quality supported housing that they need."

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