Evolve response to the government’s ongoing exempt accommodation inquiry.
In some respects, the government’s inquiry into exempt accommodation is a sobering reminder of how much UK housing provision must still be improved.
Testimony from councils, charities and individuals showed that numerous exempt accommodation providers – who manage housing for vulnerable people including refugees, prison-leavers and people impacted by homelessness – are not meeting their responsibilities. They should provide secure accommodation and additional support to help tenants move on to further independence. On both counts, many are failing.
In light of this, we welcome new efforts to increase and improve oversight of exempt accommodation, and therefore improve the experience that tenants have. Everyone has the right to secure housing and the support they need, and we hope that any new changes reflect this.
We also hope that reform will open up new discussions about an element of this topic that is often overlooked.
Exempt accommodation is the provision of both housing, and support. While often spoken of in the same breath they are far from the same, and the ‘housing’ element frequently draws more focus. However, it is only half the story.
Housing difficulties don’t exist in isolation. There are many reasons people may be staying in exempt accommodation, from family breakdown to having just left prison. We know from our own work that some of these causes can also be cyclical or self-reinforcing. For example, mental health difficulties or past trauma can both cause homelessness and be exacerbated by it.
Because of that, for people to ultimately move on from exempt accommodation, the reasons they needed it in the first place must be addressed. Everyone has different circumstances and support needs, and when these aren’t met it can stop them from moving on with their lives.
Understood this way, the success of exempt accommodation rests as much on the support provided as the accommodation. If someone has survived domestic abuse or fled a dangerous place then a safe room, whilst absolutely necessary, may not be enough on its own to solve everything. People may need psychological support, training, education, or other specific forms of help.
Providing this support is difficult. It is time-consuming, it requires (often costly) resources, and it must be tailored for every person. Yet it is completely vital, and people in exempt accommodation often need it to be able to rebuild their lives.
We see this at our services day in, day out. Therapy, counselling, education, training, peer support – and lots more – all make a real difference when suitably tailored to each person.
Exempt accommodation should be far more than simply providing a roof. It should be a route through which people can build happy, resilient and independent lives. Conversations about reform are welcome, but they must include a more nuanced understanding of the ‘support’ element of exempt accommodation. People facing homelessness must be understood and seen – it is what they deserve and it is what works.