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Homeless people could lose homes and vital support

23 Feb 2016

Homeless people could lose homes and vital support

Derventio Housing Trust is warning that government changes to housing benefit rules could leave thousands of homeless and vulnerable people without a home or a helping hand.

This could have a devastating impact on towns and cities across the country with huge increases in street homelessness, more pressure on overstretched public services, and homeless people stuck on hospital and mental health wards.

In the November 2015 spending review, the government announced plans to cap all housing benefit, including supported housing, to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA). The amount of LHA you are eligible for depends on where you live. The LHA rate is based on the cheapest 30% of private rents in the local area. If introduced in its present format, this would see organisations who support people in their hour of need lose significant income. Affected projects include hostels and shared housing for homeless people, domestic violcence refuges, and housing for people with mental health problems or learning disabilities. Extra care and sheltered housing for older people would also be hit.

Projects could lose up to three-quarters of their income, and many will be forced to close.

As rents in supported housing tend to be higher, reflecting the higher turnover, extra costs associated with the additional management and extra support needed, organisations that provide housing for older people, people with disabilities, people with mental health needs and victims of domestic abuse could be left with huge shortfalls and projects will be forced to close.

Although the changes would not come into force until 2018, they will affect everyone who moves into new accommodation from April 2016.  For organisations such as DHT where residents usually stay for short periods to get themselves back on their feet after traumatic events in their lives, it is likely to affect up to 95% of their properties.  Although it will not take effect for over 2 years, it is already having a negative effect.  DHT is reviewing all new developments, and one housing provider has shelved a £100m development scheme.

“It’s a potential disaster”, said Sarah Hernandez, Managing Director of Derventio Housing Trust.

“We’ve spent the last 13 years building up housing for homeless people who just can’t get or sustain housing on their own. Each one needs a helping hand, either because they are at a crisis point in their life, or because they’ve never had anyone to show them how to look after a home.

“Some are ex soldiers who have fallen on hard times.

“This much-needed and essential support is what the extra housing benefit money pays for, without it, we would have to close our SmartShare supported housing.

“It would be tragic to take away that support and leave people struggling without help and heartbreaking to see all that we’ve worked so hard for lost.

Last year, Derventio Housing Trust gave 1,000 people in Derby, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Swindon a home with support from experienced staff.

Government Minister Lord Freud has promised protection for supported housing tenants but he has stopped short of setting out how this would work.  The uncertainty is crippling the supported housing sector, with leaders of National Housing Federation, Homeless Link, SITRA, Women’s Aid and Crisis all calling on the Government to end the uncertainty and announce an exemption from the changes for supported accommodation.

In Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, right now, Derventio Housing Trust houses 282 people who have faced homelessness. Around a third also struggle with mental ill health, and some are trying hard to overcome drug or alcohol addiction or a history of offending. Some are refugees trying to start a new life. They are people like Sophie, Chloe, Mark, and Sam.

“Over the last few years we’ve pared our costs to the bone, because of the economic situation,” Sarah said. “There really isn’t anything else to cut.

But the main thing that really upsets all our staff is knowing that men and women like Mark and Chloe won’t have anywhere to go.

Please help them by raising this issue with your local MP and councilors.”

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