Working While Living in Supported Housing
By Julie Holdcroft, Stoke North and Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau
Supported Housing provides temporary accommodation, ususally for up to 2 years, to support people who need help to find or manage a home. Support Workers work closely with customers to prepare them to move into independent living by supporting them to manage their tenancy, develop their skills and to take up training and work opportunities.
Many people in Supported Housing are on Universal Credit and can have ‘Claimant Commitments’ which require them to look for full time work. However working full time and living in supported housing can incur high costs for the customer.
Supported Housing is partly funded by additional support costs added on to the rent which are covered by Housing Benefit. Supported accommodation is deemed ‘exempt accomodation’ and is still covered by Housing Benefit rather than the Housing Costs Element of UC. When support costs are added into the rent, housing costs can be up to £200+ p/wk for shared or single accomodation. Customers in shared accommodation have a service charge to pay of around £15 p/wk which covers the utlity bills. Customer in single accommodation pay their own bills including Council Tax.
As long as a claimant recieves some UC as a top up to their wages, they can continue to get their maximum Housing Benefit paid. This is because a HB claimant in Exempt Accomodation who is also a Universal Credit claimant has the whole of their income (including earnings) disregarded*. But if someone comes off UC due to earning too much, then their income will reduced or stop their Housing Benefit. A Discretionary Housing Payment may be available from the local authority to help them for up to 8 weeks to adjust to budgeting for their new income.
People with ‘complex needs’ taking on paid work can also risk sanctions if they leave their paid work voluntarily or lose their job through misconduct. High Level sanctions of 13 weeks up to 3 years (to be changed to maximum of 6 months by end 2019) can be applied. So, the ability to manage and sustain paid work is vital before taking up a paid role and coming off benefits.
Paid work can be a way out of poverty, however for those with ‘complex needs’ living in Support Housing, it can raise the real risk of building up significant rent arrears that could lead to eviction and a return to homelessness. Supported Housing Workers can help customers prepare for the world of work by ensuring people are aware of their potential rent/council tax liabilities via a full benefit check prior to them taking on a paid role.
*Housing Benefit regs 2006, Schedule 5 (12) and Schedule 5 (4)