Refuge calls for refuges to be exempt from housing benefit caps
In November George Osborne announced his decision to limit housing benefit. The benefit received by those renting from private landlords, Local Housing Allowance, has been capped based on the cheapest 30% of properties in an area. Now there are plans to extend Local Housing Allowance to those renting from social landlords, too.
Refuge is a social landlord, and the reduced level of housing benefit would not meet the costs of running our emergency accommodation. Refuges will be forced to close if specialist housing like ours is not exempted.
Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, says:
“Refuge is gravely concerned about the catastrophic impact that proposals to extend Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to social landlords could have on our national network of emergency accommodation services, if they are not exempted.
In 2014/15 our refuges provided safe accommodation to over 1,500 women and children fleeing domestic violence. At any given time, two thirds of residents are children. A refuge is more than a roof over a woman or child’s head; we give them the building blocks they need to rebuild their lives.
LHA rates are based on the 30th percentile figure for properties in a local area. This measure is totally unsuitable for specialist accommodation run by social landlords like Refuge. The proposed LHA rates would not even meet refuge rent charges, let alone the additional costs incurred as a result of regularly renovating properties and providing the intensive housing management necessary in such supported emergency accommodation, given the high turnover of occupants we support each year.
In previous discussions the Government has mentioned offering additional Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) to make up the shortfall that the proposed LHA would impose upon social landlords, but Refuge believes this is not a sustainable solution. Local authorities have limited funds for DHP and this resource is already under huge pressure.
Refuge is calling for all specialist housing run by social landlords to be exempt from the LHA proposed changes. If refuges are not exempted from LHA rates this will mean that Refuge can no longer provide its emergency accommodation in a sustainable manner; and this would mean the collapse of the domestic violence refuge sector.
I cannot stress how serious an issue this is to Refuge as England’s largest specialist provider of refuge accommodation. Our services offer a lifeline to women and children and must be protected from punitive financial measures which could result in their closure.
We are in real danger of returning to the days of Cathy Come Home. Without adequate refuge provision, women experiencing domestic violence will be faced with a stark choice: flee to live rough on the streets with their children, or remain with their abuser and risk further violence – or worse.
As such Refuge is calling for immediate clarification on this matter. Lord Freud has said the Government will “put in place appropriate protections for supported housing”, but it is still not clear what this means. The lack of certainty on this issue makes it impossible for Refuge to plan for its future or even retain its highly trained staff.”
For more information, please contact the Refuge press office on 0207 395 7731 or email firstname.lastname@example.org