Friday, 31 May 2013

Night Shelters at risk of losing funding

BFTF was concerned to read about a campaign on change.org explaining that :

"...night shelters throughout England and Wales may now be threatened with closure by a legal ruling that supported Isle of Anglesey Council's decision to deny housing benefit to a man who was staying in a night shelter. This was done on the grounds that it could not be considered his ‘home’, as the man did not have the right to leave his possessions there or a guaranteed place every night.

Many night shelters rely on Housing Benefit payments to keep their services running. This income is needed more now than ever before, as many homelessness services are already seeing other sources of funding fall due to local authority spending cuts. Without access to Housing Benefit, many shelters may be forced to close their doors."
After signing the petition, BFTF emailed Nottingham Council to ask them to confirm that they would not be stopping housing benefit payments to night shelters and similar accomodation.

Update 18 Jun 2012 : Received the following response from Nottingham Council:
1. Winter Shelters
Emmanuelle House which refers in to winter shelter scheme has confirmed that it does not claim Housing Benefit for citizens it support. This scheme would be similar in services offered to that of the upper tribunal decision in Anglesey and as such we would not pay HB for these services and I have been advised by Housing Aid (Gary Harvey) that 80% of the winter shelter users do not have recourse to public funds.

2. Hostel accommodation
This includes the likes of London Road, The New Albion, YMCA, Salvation Army.
The users of these hostels are classed as tenants and have either licenses or tenancy agreements to reside at the hostels. As long as the tenant abides by the rules of the hostel and the tenancy agreement they have the right to stay at the hostel. This suggests a greater degree of permanence than that of the night shelter in Holyhead (Anglesey) and allows the residents to leave their belongings during the day.

Based on the above, it is likely that HB can and is paid as and when claimed. We will of course keep this under review, should any new schemes emerge or if there is a change to the hostel accommodation that would mean we needed to apply the Upper Tribunal decision.

Update 18 Jun 2012 : Received this from the petition sponsor Emmaus
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was initially reluctant to take action in what it viewed as a local issue. However, following pressure from the homelessness sector [and the petition], the DWP has issued a joint clarification note with the Department for Communities and Local Government reassuring local authorities that ‘there has been no sudden change in the law’, so there is no reason to change housing benefit payments to night shelters. A number of local authorities are still reviewing their position as regards housing benefit payments to night shelters, so the Government’s action should help to protect services in these areas.

There was a real danger that a Tribunal decision on an individual case could have devastating and unforeseen consequences for emergency homelessness provision throughout England and Wales. Although the Government has stopped short of issuing definitive guidance for local authorities, this is an important step. Thank you to everyone who gave their support to our campaign.

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