Here I explain – once and for all – why ALL refuges for domestic violence and abuse will close due to the Conservatives horrific LHA maxima policy…and truly perversely how and why the policy incentivises all UK councils to send their homeless and DV cases to central London!!
The LHA maxima policy announced in the Autumn Statement in November and subsequently confirmed in DWP parliamentary written answers in December 2015 says that the maximum amount of housing benefit a social rented sector service (eg Refuge all all other supported and sheltered housing) can receive is the maximum Local Housing Allowance – the LHA maxima policy.
1. DV Refuge
Here are the figures for a 14 bed DV refuge somewhere in the North West of England.
- Currently and until 4 April 2018 the refuge receives £244 per room per week in housing benefit and therefore has a yearly HB income level of £178,120.
- Yet from 4 April 2018 each resident type, the woman under 35 with no children to the woman with 3 or more children will only receive the LHA maxima rate of housing benefit which ranges from £58 to £121 per week.
- This means in total that the refuge receives £66,979 per year in HB which is a reduction of £111,141 per year and a 62.4% reduction.
- £111,141 reduction means 4 if not 5 staff are made redundant which means the service cannot meet the needs of those fleeing violence and abuse
- £111,141 means the refuge delivers 8,300 less hours of support per year to women and children fleeing domestic violence and abuse
- Government’s solution? – The local council can make up this £111,141 per year shortfall by giving the refuge a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)
- On figures in the public domain this would mean Liverpool City Council would need to give out over £3 million per year in DHP – and that is just for single homelessness and does not include domestic violence and abuse…and still have to pay DHP from the same £1.7m per year budget to all those affected by bedroom tax and benefit cap…!
The refuge inevitably closes as it is no longer financially viable and there is no viable alternate funding
As in every type of supported housing service the HB charged has been scrutinised to death to make sure all figures claimed are “reasonable, realistic and justifiable” under HB regulations. Put another way the refuge ONLY gets this amount ONLY after every projected and actual expenditure cost has been thoroughly considered.
The breakdown of service user households (single woman to one with 3+ children) are an accurate overview from a ten-year period of a number of refuges I have advised.
2. Homeless Hostels
Single homeless hostels, like refuges, share a key and pertinent issue in relation to the LHA maxima policy in that they are short-term services. Both may typically have a 4-month average stay for residents which means that on Monday 4 April 2018 that all residents started their tenure after April 2016 and the LHA maxima HB cut applies.
The HB figures in payment to Liverpool based homeless services are in the public domain and include a 29 bed hostel for single men and women if they are aged between 16 and 25. That weekly HB amount is £151 currently yet will fail to £58 per week from April 2018 – this is a £93 per week per person cut which for 29 rooms in a year is a £140,629 HB cut per year and again certain closure.
3. A refuge in central London?
London has perversely high LHA rates and the same 14 bed refuge can survive if it reduces the numbers of single women (ie childless) it takes into the refuge as the figures below reveal using central London LHA rates and assuming the rent is 10% higher.
A 5.24% cut and a yearly cut of £10,281 in HB is clearly not right yet it is manageable and a council there could and likely would give a DHP for this amount and perhaps more or the £10k or so shortfall could be made up somewhere else.
While it is abhorrent and offensive to deny single women refuge safety having a refuge surviving (no pun intended) in this way is preferable to having no service at all (barely).
The far more important point and perverse point I am making here is that refuges are ONLY affordable in the most expensive places to live under the Tories LHA maxima policy.
NB – Homeless hostels and using the above example of a 29 bed hostel in Liverpool but moved to central London would receive up to £260 per room per week and a 72% increase in funding if in central London and if it only catered for those 35 and over.
What a truly perverse policy! Let’s open dozens of 29 bed hostels across the capital and in Guildford as they are the only places such a service can be afforded under the LHA maxima policy !
The irony is not lost and perhaps we should go the whole hog Prime Minister (ok cheap pun and apologies) and develop sex-offender and mentally disordered offender hostels and why not ex-pyromaniac hostels – in short the general public’s worst imaginable client groups – in central London as that is the only place they are viable under this truly perverse policy.
But let’s not be cynical and let’s just have all homeless hostels and all refuges ONLY in the capital … as that is how truly perverse this policy is aside from being amoral and not even worthy of the back of a fag packet label!
The Conservative’s housing and welfare policies to date can all be reduced to if you can’t afford to live in prime real estate areas (ie London) then don’t expect the state to subsidise you living there and go and live somewhere cheaper in the homeless diaspora and benefit cleansing of London since 2010. Yet now the LHA maxima policy does the exact opposite and all of the other 310 or so local council in England as well as the 32 in Scotland and the 22 in Wales can get their own back and export those homeless and those fleeing domestic violence and abuse to central London!
Nothing could explain the perversity of the amoral LHA maxima policy better than that now could it dear reader?!