Spellar warns of organised crime ‘getting in on’ supported exempt accommodation money
Black Country MP John Spellar warned of organised crime taking advantage of supported exempt accommodation regulations and called on the Government to allow local councils to take action to do something about it.
In a Westminster Hall debate, Spellar noted that the levels of support given to supported exempt accommodation landlords was having a consequences of pricing ordinary decent families out of certain streets.
In addition, Spellar warned that: “The problems with exempt accommodation are spreading rapidly because all sorts of crooks are getting in on it. Neighbourhoods are being ruined.” And he called for early action to prevent this spreading.
I stress that there are some good, legitimate providers of this type of housing, who do important work with people in desperate need of housing and help. There are still those who are committed to a social and indeed moral mission to help people to get back on an even keel, recover from addiction, turn their lives around and play a full part in society once again. However, there are too many rogue—I describe them as cowboy—providers who have clocked that this is a lucrative money-spinning opportunity and who take full advantage. They get access to larger sums of money to house housing benefit claimants who need care, support or supervision, and then they do not provide it.
In law, it is the case that all a provider has to do is provide care, support and supervision that is, in legal terms, “more than minimal”. Those three words have plagued me as I have navigated the complex world of supported housing while trying to help my constituents—those who live in such properties and those in communities where there is a proliferation of those types of properties.
That is the nub of it, is it not? The hugely greater rents and support that landlords can get means that families are priced out of streets, and the problem spreads rapidly down these streets. The behaviour of many of those who get no support makes those streets places where people no longer wish to live. My hon. Friend talks about shady landlords, but is there not a real danger that there is so much money to be made now that organised crime is moving in, in a big way?
Birmingham has developed a new charter of rights for residents of supported housing, along with a programme of support reviews and scrutiny of housing benefit claims. In Blackpool, the council has carried out a review of the support provided in accommodation for victims of domestic abuse to ensure that there is sufficient and tailored support.
The problems with exempt accommodation are spreading rapidly because all sorts of crooks are getting in on it. Neighbourhoods are being ruined. Quite frankly, they want action now. When will the Minister bring forward regulations to enable councils to do something about this?