There is no disagreement between us. In cash terms, nobody will see their payments change until April 2018. That is what I was referring to. As I said, I expect to make an announcement in the early autumn. I hope that will provide the certainty that the sector is quite reasonably demanding.
Of course we understand that there are higher costs associated with providing supported housing than with providing general needs housing. I recognise the potential impact that this policy could have on the sector and its ability to support vulnerable people. I am also aware that this policy needs to be considered not on its own, but alongside other policies that affect the sector, including the 1% annual rent reduction for social sector tenants in England.
To return to the point about timing, in March, the Minister for Welfare Reform announced an exemption for this sector for one year. I hope that has provided some assurance for providers that nothing will happen precipitately while we complete the evidence review. That exemption, and a similar deferral of the 1% rent reduction, has been welcomed by the sector generally and, in particular, by the much-quoted National Housing Federation. When the deferral was announced, its chief executive said:
“We are pleased that the Government is listening to our concerns and has delayed the application of the LHA cap to people in…supported and sheltered housing.”
He also welcomed the fact
“that there will be a full strategic review into how these services are funded and we will contribute fully to that review.”
I am very grateful to the NHF for making that commitment. It is doing so and will continue to do so until we find a solution.
We require a solution that is flexible enough to meet the needs of service users and providers while remaining affordable for the taxpayer and delivering value for money. We have been working with and listening not just to providers of supported housing and umbrella bodies—the NHF and the Local Government Association—but to individual local authorities and other local commissioners, as well as to those who represent the vulnerable groups who live in supported housing. We have of course also consulted the Welsh and Scottish Governments about the implications for them. That extensive dialogue has been crucial in shaping our thinking on this important issue. I want to continue that exchange of information and ideas.