The impact of Housing Benefit changes on Refuges

Lanark and Hamilton East MP Angela Crawley, this week, spoke in a debate on the extension of the local housing allowance rate to social landlords, seeking assurance that supported accommodation will be exempt from the proposed housing benefit changes.

Previously, the local MP asked the Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud, for urgent clarification around the proposal which would set the housing element of benefit claims to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) levels – far lower than what is needed to cover rent and service charges in refuges and supported accommodation.

To date, no exemption has been announced by the Government.

During the debate, Angela said:

“Refuges are ​an important space to assist women escaping terrible, violent situations. There is no way to put into words the experiences of these women.

“The services they will receive at the front door from that staff member are all down to the necessary funding, whatever the mechanism is.

“Refuges provide a safety net for women escaping physical and sexual violence, and we must ensure that the Tories’ austerity measures do not destroy those vital support systems.

“Cuts to vital services leave people in crisis. Having left everything behind, women are under more strain than ever before—more than we can ever imagine.

“The Government’s constant cuts mean that many of the people delivering such vital services will never be able to fully meet their own needs because of funding ambitions and meeting one funding aim to another.

Commenting after the debate, Angela said:

“There needs to be urgent clarification on how far this proposed cap on housing benefit will go when it comes to the most vulnerable people living in refuge and supported accommodation.

“Women’s Aid Groups – including those in my own constituency – have raised serious concerns that changes to Housing Benefit could force the closure of many refuges.

“This would have a devastating impact on the people who rely on these services such as women and children fleeing domestic violence, disabled people and those affected by homelessness as we know that rent and service charges in supported accommodation is significantly higher than the LHA rate.

“The Government have failed to provide any assurance that supported housing would be exempted from these proposals and it is completely unacceptable that refuges have been put in such a state of uncertainty over these plans.

“The Minister should move immediately to exclude supported accommodation including refuges from any proposed changes to the LHA rate.”