The Department for Work and Pensions is unable to provide a figure for the amount of public money being spent in the scandal-hit supported exempt accommodation sector.
The failing was exposed in response to a written parliamentary question tabled by Shabana Mahmood, Member of Parliament for Birmingham Ladywood.
Providers of supported exempt accommodation are supposed to provide a more than minimal amount of care, support, and supervision to residents, and units are exempt from local planning rules and the housing benefit cap.
Multiple reports have proven that the sector is rife with abuse, with unscrupulous providers falsifying contractual agreements, failing to provide adequate care provision, and obscuring their activities with not-for-profit status. Vulnerable residents are left without support in substandard accommodation where substance abuse and antisocial behaviour are commonplace.
A recent landmark report by Prospect Housing estimated the sector is costing local authorities up to £1 billion a year in housing benefit.
Shabana Mahmood MP wrote to the Department for Work and Pensions to ask for an official figure on the money being spent in the sector, but the Government answered that it does not collect statistics on this issue as it would be “too costly” for it to do so.
Shabana Mahmood, Member of Parliament for Birmingham Ladywood said:
“It’s well-known that the supported exempt accommodation sector is a license to print money for cowboy landlords and unethical providers.
“But this response proves that the Government is looking the other way, refusing to address the problem and pouring potentially billions of pounds of public funds into the pockets of rogue operators.
“The Government is wasting an eye-watering amount of taxpayers’ money while it tinkers around the edges of the exempt sector, yet shows no will to investigate how much the bill might be.
“They need to get a grip on this sector, and fast, and do right by vulnerable residents and hardworking taxpayers.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
- Exempt accommodation is often used as a means of housing those with very few other housing options, such as prison leavers, rough sleepers, refugees and migrants, and those experiencing substance abuse issues.
- Because such landlords provide loosely defined care and support services, their tenants can be exempt from housing benefit caps and associations can charge much higher rents than regular landlords.
- However, the sector is badly under regulated and there is a growing number of bogus and unscrupulous providers that take residents housing benefit and defraud them of it, without providing any additional support that is required by law.
- Birmingham has the highest number of exempt accommodation providers in the UK with over 22,000 claimants living in the city. MP for Birmingham Ladywood, Shabana Mahmood has received an extensive amount of casework detailing the difficulties supported exempt accommodation residents are experiencing.