Birmingham City Council welcomes £3.19 million extension to its supported exempt housing sector pilot from the government’s Supported Housing Improvement Programme
Birmingham City Council has welcomed the award of £3.19m from the Department for Levelling Up, Homes and Communities (DLUHC) to carry on its work reforming the supported exempt housing sector in the city until 2025 as part of the government’s Supported Housing Improvement Programme.
Evidence presented by the council to the DLUHC Select Committee, who are currently conducting a review into the sector, showed that while there are some landlords who provide good supported exempt accommodation in the city, too many have been ‘red flagged’ by the Regulator of Social Housing as failing vulnerable tenants. The sector has also been associated with a growth in anti-social behaviour and crime which has severely impacted local communities. This has particularly affected Birmingham which has seen a huge increase in the sector in recent years and now has the largest number of supported exempt properties.
The award from the DLUHC is in recognition of the successful work the council has done to date and the size of the exempt sector in the city. In November 2020, Birmingham began a pilot with £1.8m funding from government to introduce and test new arrangements and oversight of the exempt sector. This included setting up new multi-disciplinary teams to undertake a regime of inspections and reviews and the roll out a new Birmingham Quality Standard and Charter of Rights to drive up standards for tenants. After the pilot, BCC agreed a further 1 year fixed term funding of £1.9m in order to support continuation of the work until March 2023.
Councillor Sharon Thompson, Cabinet member for Housing and Homelessness, said ‘Prior to the pilot, the city was seeing year on year increases in supported housing benefit claims, rising from 11,000 in 2017 to 21,000 in December 2020. Since our intervention work, the increase in exempt accommodation units has plateaued with the total linked to housing benefit claims reaching just over 21800 in December 2021. This funding is vital to carry on with this work as we need to both reduce and reform the sector if we are to ensure that it meets the needs of our most vulnerable residents. Birmingham City Council have been doing great work trying to drive up standards across the sector such as the launching of the Quality Standards and Charter of Rights last year with Birmingham Voluntary Sector Council. However, we need urgent government intervention if we are to truly reform the sector, in particular powers to control the level and scale of provision and enforcement powers to close down providers who are exploiting vulnerable people or not providing suitable accommodation and adequate support.’