There are to be some changes to Housing Benefit and the equivalent in Universal Credit from April 2018.
I understand the concerns surrounding these changes and I have had many conversations with housing associations in the constituency, especially those who supply housing for vulnerable people, to help understand the impacts of this on supported accommodation. Since these discussions I have been feeding in their suggestions to the relevant Ministers and I will continue to do so where appropriate going forward.
The changes to Housing Benefit announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement involve aligning the rules for claimants in the social sector with those for claimants renting privately. Let me assure you, however, that the Government recognises the importance of ensuring those who are providing supported accommodation to some of the most vulnerable members of our society receive appropriate protections. Government departments will be working closely together and listening carefully to the concerns raised, to make sure that the right protections are in place.
The Government has commissioned an extensive review into supported housing to get an accurate picture of the sector's needs, and will report back in due course. This will help to determine how best to make sure the appropriate protections are in place, and the Government is keen to ensure workable and sustainable solutions for the supported housing sector are worked out. The details on this policy are still being considered. Reductions will not apply until April 2018 and the change will only apply to new or renewed tenancies from April 2016; the Chancellor confirmed in the 2016 Budget that for supported accommodation this will be delayed until April 2017 to allow time for the review to be considered.
The aim of these reforms is to make the system fairer and address the rising social sector Housing Benefit bill. People who rent privately have their rent, in the assessment of Housing Benefit, limited to a level appropriate to their household size and local area by the Local Housing Allowance. This limit will now apply to social tenants as well. Over the last five years, average social rent rises have been double those for private sector accommodation. I do not think it is fair for social landlords to consistently raise rents knowing the taxpayer will pick up the bill, while those renting privately have limits on the amount of rent they can claim for. However, it is important to ensure this change does not have an unintended impact on vulnerable people, which is the point of the Government's review.
As part of the policy announcement in the Autumn Statement an additional £70 million for 2018-20 was announced for Discretionary Housing Payments. Although these payments are generally to afford an element of support during transition, the Government recognises that some people will need additional support for the longer term, which is why funding is being substantially increased. A total of £870 million for these payments is being provided over the course of this Parliament. This will allow local authorities to ensure vulnerable groups are not negatively impacted.
Supported housing is a vital provision for many people, and please be assured the Government is working to ensure the sector is able to maintain and improve the essential services it provides.