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Investigation into supported housing Press release

Gaps in data and regulation are – in some areas – allowing increasing numbers of landlords to profit by providing costly, sub-standard housing with little or no support, supervision or care, according to a new National Audit Office report.

Supported housing is accommodation provided alongside support, supervision or care to help people with specific needs to live as independently as possible in the community. This includes, for example, those who are elderly; living with disabilities; or have experienced homelessness or substance misuse.

There are three categories of supported housing; short-term (e.g. hostels); specialised (e.g. long-term housing for people needing a high level of care), and sheltered housing (e.g. long-term housing for older people with minimal or extra care needs).

Current gaps in regulation means some supported housing providers are receiving less scrutiny. And there is no direct regulation of the quality of support offered.

One local authority reported to the Committee for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities that in the 345 supported housing units it inspected between April 2019 and January 2022, it found 323 hazards classed as a serious and immediate risk to a person’s health and safety. A lack of national, central government data on exempt accommodation makes it difficult to assess the scale of the problem.

DLUHC is aware of the limits of available data and has commissioned research to provide an up-to-date understanding of the supported housing sector. In 2022, DLUHC also allocated £20 million over three years to 26 local authorities to help them improve the quality and value for money of supported housing, together with enhancing local authorities’ knowledge of local supply and demand.

Responsibilities for supported housing are spread across central government. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) is responsible for the supply and quality of supported housing.

In addition, DLUHC sets housing policy and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for Housing Benefit policy, while the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) develops policies that aim to give more people the choice to live independently and healthily in their own homes for longer. DLUHC, with DWP and DHSC, created the Support Housing Programme Board to help coordinate work across the departments.

A new private members’ Bill aimed at improving supported housing is due to come into force by this summer with government backing. The Bill, introduced by Bob Blackman MP, will develop national standards, require local authorities to review supported housing in their areas, and enable them to create licensing schemes for exempt accommodation. DLUHC has yet to establish how it will support local authorities to implement these new duties, although it has committed to a full consultation.

“Better data and regulation can be driving forces behind much-needed improvements in supported housing. Assisting local authorities to ably scrutinise landlords can help raise housing standards for some of the most vulnerable people in our society, who deserve far better.” 

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO

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Investigation into supported housing

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