Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Fund for yourself

‘One night only’ homeless shelters are not entitled to housing benefit, and this is unlikely to change, warns Giles Peaker

Despite a letter from the Communities and Local Government department and the Department for Work and Pensions to local authorities, it is still the case that homeless shelters that operate on a ‘one night only’ basis, with no guaranteed right to return, no access to facilities during the day and nowhere to store belongings, will not receive housing benefit.

The joint note, which sought to clarify the impact of a case in Anglesey last year - in which a judge found the council wasn’t liable to pay housing benefit to a claimant because a shelter wasn’t his permanent dwelling - has been taken more positively than is justified. All the note does is confirm that the Anglesey judgement was correct and that the government will be taking no steps to change housing benefit regulations. The note says that benefit would still be payable to shelters where the regime would meet the requirement of being the claimant’s ‘home’. Optimistically, the note suggests this would be ‘the majority’ of shelters, but there are no figures to support that assertion.

Any shelter with a similar regime to that in the Anglesey case will not be able to receive housing benefit. The note suggests that this should always have been the case, suggesting that councils that did pay housing benefit to such shelters may have difficulties in recouping it.

Councils who have not yet pulled housing benefit from such shelters, will very likely do so after reading the government note. Lord David Freud in parliament made clear that local authorities will be expected to find funding for such shelters from Supporting People or homeless prevention budgets instead.

Giles Peaker is a partner at Anthony Gold Solicitors
giles.peaker@anthonygold.co.uk

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