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New Charter of Rights and Quality Standards for exempt supported housing launched

Image of tenants, staff and the cabinet member holding a copy of the new Charter of Rights for tenants
Published: Monday, 15th March 2021

Following a £1 million supported housing pilot with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Birmingham City Council (BCC) have

  • created a Charter of Rights with Spring Housing Association to make tenants and their families aware of the service they should expect,
  • worked with Birmingham Voluntary Services Council (BVSC), who have designed and are rolling out Quality Standards for all providers of exempt accommodation so that the service they provide meets a high standard
  • employed an additional multi-disciplinary team of inspectors and social workers to carry out more inspections on properties to ensure that those living there are not being exploited and are receiving the support they need.

In supported housing, accommodation is provided alongside care, support or supervision to help people live as independently as possible. Those who are often housed in this type of property are the homeless and other vulnerable groups, such as those with support needs or disabilities.

There are currently more than 20,000 units of supported exempt accommodation across the city and most of this housing provision is non-commissioned. However, BCC has fewer powers in relation to regulation of this burgeoning sector, which needs wider policy reform on a national basis and further policy analysis. Benefit tribunals and operational level research has sometimes identified exempt accommodation as a complex and difficult area of housing benefit to administer.

Exempt accommodation is funded through housing benefit with potential residents placed into it using multiple referral routes. This pilot has provided BCC with additional resources to scrutinize applications for exempt status to ensure providers are offering suitable housing for those people with complex support needs.

Cllr Sharon Thompson, cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods at Birmingham City Council said, “I am pleased that this innovative piece of work has been recognised as good practice nationally. Supported accommodation is essential for thousands of people who rely on it to live as independently as possible. But it is essential that providers honour their commitment to deliver the right support.

“I’m very proud that we’ve launched the Charter of Rights and Quality Standards which will not only help us to champion landlords who are providing a quality service but also have the resource available to be able to effectively monitor those landlords who are not.

“However, we also need stronger regulation for local authorities, the police and the Regulator of Social Housing. This needs to include stronger definitions around care and support so that those who provide poor standards face consequences which will make them change their practices. The charter and standard Birmingham has produced will provide important learning to inform the scale of supported housing required and to help shape future provision.”

One of the residents to benefit from the new Charter of Rights and Quality Standard is Babar. He said ‘This new Charter of Rights and Quality Standard will for the first time give residents like me real peace of mind in our own homes. It guarantees decent living conditions which is really important but also ensures that housing providers have to provide high quality accommodation’.

Dominic Bradley, group chief executive at Spring Housing Association said, “We are really pleased to work with Birmingham City Council to support their ambition that everyone living in supported accommodation should have the right to decent living conditions, to feel safe and protected, and have access to the right support at the right time.

“What’s special for us is that the Charter of Rights has been co-designed with over 50 people that have experienced homelessness and the charter is a testament to their incredibly hard work over a sustained period, which will now be put into practice to ensure that we get a more consistent approach to this style of housing provision in the city.”

Sharne Maher, Head of Multiple Disadvantage at Birmingham Voluntary Services Council said, “BVSC have worked on the Exempt Housing Quality standards for almost two years and were pleased to be part of the Birmingham pilot into the use of Exempt Accommodation across Birmingham. The introduction of the Quality Standards will allow registered providers of Housing to demonstrate their commitment to their clients and to providing a quality housing offer through a recognised quality mark and will allow referring agencies to identify those providers delivering quality housing with support.”

If you would like to report a supported housing property, please contact us at PRS@birmingham.gov.uk

Notes for editors

Charter of Rights:

Spring Housing Association were commissioned to co-produce, with residents of exempt accommodation, a Charter or Rights. The Charter is intended to help organisations consolidate, clarify, and build upon their existing practices, ensuring that they are able to respond to their residents safely, effectively, and consistently, and identify clear linkages between management practices and resident experience. The rights outlined in the Charter are the following:

  • A right to feel safe and protected
  • A right to decent living conditions
  • A right to clear information on your support entitlement
  • A right to security of property
  • A right to seek advice and assistance, and to challenge

Quality Standards:

Birmingham City Council is working in partnership with BVSC to improve the quality of support in non-commissioned exempt accommodation in Birmingham, and are actively encouraging all exempt providers to sign up and commit to the Quality Standards. The standards set out 3 key areas for quality improvement:

  1. Leadership and Management
  2. Referral Assessment and Supervision
  3. Residents.

There are many benefits for registered providers signing up to the Quality Standards and Charter of Rights:

  • Residents who feel happy, safe, and protected in their homes.
  • Preferential referrals from Birmingham City Council and BCC commissioned hubs.
  • A validated and endorsed assessment of properties and support offer that can be promoted across the city.
  • Better relationships with communities in which your properties are located.
  • Improved relationships with statutory agencies who are aiming to improve the quality of accommodation in the city.
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