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Exempt accommodation claimants in Birmingham double to 22,000 in three years

By 04/06/2021No Comments

New Roots received a G3/V3 rating in February 2020, meaning it was non-compliant on both governance and financial measures. At the time the regulator found the provider to have “significant weaknesses” in its business planning framework and “inadequate risk management processes and internal controls”.

None of these gradings mentioned the quality of housing or conditions in the properties managed by the providers.

Prospect was downgraded in October last year to G4/V3. G4 is the lowest possible grading for governance. The basis of this grading included reviews into two serious safeguarding incidents, which identified weaknesses in procedures and controls of the landlord over services provided by third-party managing agents.

Prospect confirmed in March that it had taken the decision to cease operations this year and would begin a solvent closure. The provider will be closing in the summer.

The list also includes Three Conditions Housing Association (3CHA), a Milton Keynes-based registered provider that currently owns 147 properties and has 531 claimants in the city, according to the data. It is also currently on the RSH’s gradings under review list.

Trident Housing, ExtraCare Charitable Trust and Midland Heart make up the rest of the 10 biggest providers of exempt accommodation in Birmingham. For all of these providers, exempt accommodation represents just a fraction of the housing they provide.

Both Trident and Midland Heart received G1/V1 ratings from the regulator in the past six months, the highest grading registered providers can receive for governance and financial viability.

ExtraCare is a provider of housing for people over 55 across the Midlands and is regulated by the Quality Care Commission (CQC). Of the organisation’s 15 care facilities, all but one are rated as good or outstanding by the CQC.

While exempt accommodation is particularly acute in Birmingham, it is present in other cities across the UK such as Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester. Data from December 2018 showed that there were more than 4,600 claimants in Liverpool, 3,070 in Manchester and 2,740 in Bristol – the numbers in those cities are likely to have grown since.

The increase in claimants comes as Birmingham Council looks to restrict the growth of exempt accommodation in the city, as well as driving up standards for those living in these properties.

Last October, the council was handed more than £1m by the government for a pilot scheme aimed at driving up the quality of exempt accommodation in the city.

In March, this money funded the creation of a charter of rights and a set of standards for exempt accommodation claimants, which places new requirements on providers and managing agents. This was also supported by the council recruiting a new team of inspectors and social workers to check properties and ensure tenants’ conditions meet the standards.

A Birmingham Council spokesperson said: “Our revenues and benefits team are working in line with other authorities and we are developing good working relationships with the regulator.

“As with this whole area, we here in Birmingham feel the legislation needs to be tightened, possibly through of a supported exempt version of Local Housing Allowance, or definitive actions that are triggered following regulator reviews.

“There is no advantage to the council in regards to how the exempt market is funded, especially given the additional pressures we face across our housing and community safety teams. The police are also in a similar position with stretched resources as a result of this market.”

Sustain told Inside Housing: “Sustain UK broadly welcomes Birmingham City Council’s approaches to slowing the growth of exempt accommodation, as well as addressing the long-term need to raise the standard of supported accommodation and properties for those in urgent need of housing.

“In line with Birmingham City Council’s objectives, Sustain UK froze its available bed numbers two years ago and ceased offering properties in identified hotspots, where we feel the social infrastructure cannot accommodate ever-increasing levels of HMOs and supported living projects.

“Sustain UK has also signed up to Birmingham City Council’s recent ‘supported exempt accommodation quality standards’.

“Internally, Sustain UK has a robust track record of inspection on all the accommodation and support delivered on our behalf. We will continue to work with Birmingham City Council’s inspection teams to help improve standards across the city.”

The provider added that the number of properties it owned across both Birmingham and Loughborough as of the end of February was 464, with the number of beds in housing benefit payment with Birmingham Council at 1,790.

Prospect said that as of 31 March it had 253 properties and 842 exempt accommodation claimants.

Inside Housing has contacted Reliance, Ash-Shahada, New Roots, 3CHA, Trident, Midland Heart and ExtraCare for comment.

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