Older people, disabled people and most vulnerable to lose £68 a week in housing benefit

Planned changes to housing benefit could leave vast numbers of the country’s most vulnerable people unable to afford rent on their homes, forcing the closure of many schemes like women’s refuges, specialist dementia accommodation and veterans’ services.

26 January 2016

Planned changes to housing benefit could leave vast numbers of the country’s most vulnerable people unable to afford rent on their homes, forcing the closure of many schemes like women’s refuges, specialist dementia accommodation and veterans’ services.

With changes coming into effect in April and many schemes already on hold, the National Housing Federation, with the backing of Age UK, Mencap and Women’s Aid, is calling on government to confirm that this new cap will apply only to people that don’t need extra support.

New figures from the National Housing Federation show that more than 50,000 households could be affected over the course of just one year, losing an average of £68 per week each. In a survey of housing associations, it was found that 82,000 specialist homes would become unviable and be forced to close. Across the sector this equates to an estimated 156,000 homes - 41% of all of this type of housing. 

In November the Chancellor introduced a cap on housing benefit for tenants in the social sector. Many of these tenants live in housing schemes which provide extra care and support, with the higher rents and service charges often covered by housing benefit.

A rapidly ageing population means that the need for specialist housing is greater than ever with nearly 50,000 extra homes needed over the next decade. Building work on an estimated 2,400 new specialist homes has already been cancelled as a result and an additional 9,270 homes would not be able to be built if the LHA cap went ahead.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said:

“We are urgently seeking clarity from Government: will this cap apply to those who are, by definition, the most in need of extra help?

“If this cap applies to specialist housing, tens of thousands of vulnerable people will be unable to afford the cost of their home and care. Huge numbers of people will be affected from older people and dementia patients, to disabled people and women fleeing domestic violence – they cannot go without specialist care and support.

“With building on new homes grinding to a halt, pipeline plans scrapped and schemes already preparing to shut up shop, this matter can no longer go unresolved.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid said:

“Women’s Aid has been working alongside the Government to ensure the national network of specialist women’s domestic abuse refuges is on a financially sustainable footing, so that the women and children fleeing violence in the home always have somewhere safe to go.

“An estimated 12,000 women will stay in refuge every year, more often than not, with their children. Uncertainty about the future of housing benefit payments is already directly impacting on services plans for the future and a risk to the future of refuge provision is a risk to women and children’s lives.  We are urging Government to make clear their intentions to exempt domestic violence refuges from these regulations as a matter of urgency.”

Notes

We have a range of case studies of both individuals and schemes affected available for interview. For more information, case studies and interviews please contact the National Housing Federation media team: 0207 067 1146. Out of hours: 07786 916877

  • The number of people affected by the Local Housing Allowance cap (50,000) and cost per week (£68.05) are both taken from the National Housing Federation’s analysis of CORE lettings data.
  • The number of new supported housing homes needed over the next decade (46,771) is a SITRA estimate.
  • The sites on which building work has been stopped (2,400) and the number of planned homes that are being scrapped (10,000) is taken from a National Housing Federation survey of 109 of its housing association members.