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Housing Benefit

House of Lords written question – answered on 10th July 2013.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will issue new guidance to local authorities on the use of housing benefit to support homeless people in emergency overnight shelter accommodation.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Guidance to local authorities on the administration of the Housing Benefit regulations is already available. There are no plans to amend it in this respect.

A recent court judgement (OR -v- Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Isle of Anglesey CC [2013] UKUT 065) has prompted questions about the eligibility of people using night shelters for housing benefit. I would like to assure the noble Lord that there has been no change in the law. Housing Benefit rules have not been changed over the basic principle of entitlement.

The court case was about the facts of one individual case, on whether the claimant was occupying a night shelter as his dwelling in accordance with the legislation. The Government believes that housing benefit can continue to be paid to users of shelters so long as the person’s circumstances meet the housing benefit rules. It is for local authorities to make decisions after considering all the relevant facts.

Information to clarify this point has been made available to local authorities and voluntary sector providers and a copy of the note has been placed in the Library of the House.

The Government recognises the important contribution that night shelters can make to reducing rough sleeping and the associated costs to society. We have invested £470 million over four years (2011/12-2014/15) to help local authorities and the voluntary sector prevent and tackle homelessness, including rough sleeping in England and a £5 million boost to the Homelessness Change Programme (bringing the total investment to £42.5 million).

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