What is the Chancellor not telling us about cuts to housing benefit for people in specialist supported housing?

Behind the headline grabbing announcements, such as the tax on sugary drinks, some of the most important items in the Budget are hidden away in supporting documents published at the same time as the Chancellor is on his feet.

One such matter relates to the cap on housing benefit in social housing at the same levels as payable in the private sector from April 2018.

I have written a great deal about the impact of this on specialist supported housing in recent weeks, and people across the country have warned that this will result in the loss of many thousands of specialist supported housing bed spaces for homeless people and other vulnerable men and women.

In figures published as part of the Autumn Statement, line 26 on ‘Welfare’ said that the savings to be made from “Housing Benefit: limit social sector rates to the equivalent private sector rate” would be £120 million in 2018/19, £170 million in 2019/20, and £225 million in 2020/21.

Yet today, in Table 2.2 “Measures announced at Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015”, line ‘r’ “Housing Benefit: limit social sector rates to the equivalent private sector rate” reported these figures: savings of £265 million in 2018/19, £335 million in 2019/20, and £390 million in 2020/21.

These are increases in cuts of 121%, 97% and 73% for each of the three financial years.

There can be two explanations for this: either the Treasury got it wrong as part of the Autumn Statement or further measures are being proposed, that the cuts will go £475 million further and deeper over three years than previously proposed.

Either way, it is essential that the Chancellor clarifies what the government’s intentions are regarding specialist supported housing. The £110 million announced today, capital investment in new properties, will in no way offset to the £990 million to be lost over just three years from revenue support.

I repeat my call from earlier today: we need specialist supported housing, the main route for people to move off the streets, to be put on a sound and sustainable footing.

If the Chancellor wishes to have a legacy of reducing rough sleeping, he should not do the very thing that, inevitably, will massively increase it.

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