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Supported housing: Vulnerable people left unprotected from unscrupulous providers

10 November 2023

  • Government hampered in efforts to improve challenge-riddled sector by lack of data
  • Demand outstrips supply leaving people without needed homes or support

Vulnerable people are being increasingly provided with poor-quality supported housing. In a report published today, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warns of a lack of protections for vulnerable people being housed in poor-quality accommodation, with unsuitable or no additional support provided. The report finds a sector riddled with long-standing challenges, with Government’s actions to improve matters falling woefully short.

Supported housing is provided to people with additional needs, including care leavers, and people with disabilities, mental health issues or addiction. Exempt accommodation – an expanding sub-sector of short-term supported housing that can be of poor quality – has little regulation or oversight, leaving it open to unscrupulous providers. The PAC’s inquiry was told of an increase in vulnerable people being housed in poor-quality accommodation, and the significant, detrimental impact of unsuitable or non-existent additional support.

The report finds that the Government has no reliable data about the sector, making it unable to assess or resolve problems with it. Government’s future understanding relies on new duties imposed on councils to provide with annual data, but some of this new work has no timetable for completion, and other parts are non-mandatory. This means there is a risk that government’s picture of supported housing will remain inconsistent and incomplete.

The supply of supported housing is not meeting demand, meaning vulnerable people do not always get the homes or support that they need. But the lack of data means government does not know the size of the gap between supply and demand which stopping it effectively acting to improve supply. The Government’s progress is poor on developing more supported housing, with only half of its target of 10% within the new affordable homes programme currently forecast to be achieved by 2026. While recent legislation aims to bring in important reforms, the report warns that councils under severe financial pressure may struggle to take on these new duties under the law.

The PAC is also disappointed to see that fraud is going largely unaddressed in supported housing. Many councils do not have the resources to check individual housing benefit claims for fraud, meaning the Government is unable to identify how many housing benefit claims for supported housing are fraudulent.

Chair's comments

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said:

“Well-run supported housing could not be a more essential resource for some of the most vulnerable in our society. The sector is in desperate need of root-and-branch reform – wide open to fraud and the predations of unscrupulous landlords, and badly letting down the people who need it most. But our report finds a Government unprepared to even assess the problem, let alone address it.

Without firm data on the problems with supported housing, the Government will be able only to continue to agree with our Committee that the sector is not working as it should. It is welcome to see legislation now passed aimed at tackling part of the issue relating to exempt accommodation, but we are concerned that Whitehall will be leaning on an under-resourced local government to achieve change. We hope the recommendations in our report help support these long-overdue reforms.”

Further information

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