Birmingham news Warning more companies housing vulnerable people in Birmingham could close PremierLeague-News.Com
PremierLeague-News.Com - Prospect Housing, which houses 1,600 people at risk of homelessness in Birmingham, is to close this summer - MPs Shabana Mahmood and Jack Dromey say others could go the same way
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! A city housing association that's closing down because it could not guarantee high enough standards of care for its 1,600 vulnerable tenants 'won't be the last in the sector to go', says city MP Shabana Mahmood. The spectre of more providers of 'exempt' supported housing quitting the sector could force the Government to press on with addressing urgent concerns, she said. Ms Mahmood was reacting to news that Prospect Housing is closing this summer. The company, a registered provider of supported accommodation, responsible for housing 1,600 people, has been under scrutiny from the Regulator of Social Housing for a year after failing to meet standards around the way it ran its operations. A new board was brought in but further issues came to light around governance, including serious safeguarding reviews of a murder and suicide on their properties. The rating was downgraded further - and now the board has announced a gradual closure leading to full shutdown in July. In a parting shot board chairman Owen Ingram warned tenants across the city remained 'at risk of exploitation and poor quality unregulated accommodation and care' because of the lax regulations and policies around the sector. Around 20,000 people currently live in exempt properties in the city, with some excellent provision offering good quality accommodation that allows tenants to thrive. But we have reported a tide of concerns and complaints from tenants and communities affected by badly run exempt properties, triggering a Birmingham Live campaign to raise awareness of the challenges. Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Ladywood, said today: "Providers doing much more damage (than Prospect Housing) exist right here in our city. Prospect certainly won’t be the last in the sector to close its doors. Read More Related Articles Poverty pandemic fears in parts of Birmingham shunning Covid vaccine Read More Related Articles Revealed - vaccine take-up much lower among Birmingham's poorest and Black and Asian groups “For company chiefs to warn that residents in exempt accommodation remain at risk of exploitation is telling. "Even those companies working with the Regulator are finding it impossible to navigate a broken system ripe for abuse by shameless profiteers driving down standards of care." "I have been campaigning tirelessly to ensure statutory reform is implemented immediately to raise standards in exempt accommodation. Shabana Mahmood MP. "It cannot be right that housing providers only have to play by the rules if they want to. When we are dealing with people’s safety it must be protected in law. “There are plenty of lessons to be learned from this closure." Fellow MP Jack Dromey, whose Erdington constituency has some of the biggest clusters of 'exempt properties', said: "There are questions for Prospect Housing to answer, but a fundamental overhaul of the system of regulation is essential so that never again do we have landlords exploiting tenants or letting the vulnerable down." Read More Related Articles Fear, knife threats and chaos: MP demands action against 'gold digger' landlords hurting city Read More Related Articles 'Don't demonise vaccine fears' - city experts confront rollout challenge Prospect Housing, operating out of Aston, is an umbrella provider of supported exempt accommodation, providing rooms mainly for people entitled to enhanced housing benefit and packages of care. They include young people, care leavers, recent offenders, refugees, people with substance misuse issues and those with mental health issues and learning disabilities. The company, like others operating in the city, is not a direct owner of property; instead it works on a leasing basis with landlords and managing agents. Interim CEO Vicky McDermott and chair Owen Ingram have announced the closure of Prospect Housing It's a model of working that is increasingly problematic, with 13 providers all using similar models currently non-compliant with governance and viability standards. More are coming under regulatory review - including three other housing associations working in the city. Prospect Housing's interim chief executive Vicky McDermott said the historic arrangements made with some of the company's landlords and managing agents make it 'impossible' to meet quality standards and remain commercially viable. She said some were paid rents "significantly in excess of the Rent Standard" (a formula used by the Regulator to set local social rent levels) - and that in turn reduced the money available to raise quality and ensure compliance with regulations.
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. This included reviewing the housing benefit system, how care is commissioned and agreed for individual tenants, and the regulatory framework around it. She added: "If you are prepared to be non compliant, and duck and dive, then you can probably survive quite a long time in this sector - we need very clear regulations about what is acceptable and what is not. "People are playing to the rules as they stand - it is the rules that need to change."
What is 'exempt' accommodation?
Exempt accommodation is non commissioned and unregulated type of supported housing. Registered providers oversee the accommodation - sometimes they own the property, but increasingly the properties are leased from owners, on a contract basis, and either the registered provider or a managing agent looks after the property and its tenants. People entitled to exempt accommodation have to apply for and get enhanced housing benefit, which is paid direct to the registered provider. The cash comes from the Department for Work and Pensions, via the local council. It is often used as a means of housing those with no other housing options, such as prison leavers, rough sleepers, refugee and migrant groups, and those experiencing substance abuse issues. It can offer rich pickings to landlords, who can get a lot more for a room rented out under these rules than to a regular tenant. In return, they are supposed to provide 'support and care'. But this only has to be 'more than minimal' to meet regulations - a loose definition open to exploitation.
According to Prospect Housing's most recent published accounts, for 2018-19, the firm had in excess of 1,800 rooms, a turnover of £15.9 million and a surplus of nearly £1 million. The company board is now working with the Regulator of Social Housing, Birmingham City Council, landlords and property managing agents to make new arrangements for each of its tenants, in the hope of preventing anyone ending up homeless. What Birmingham City Council and the Regulator of Social Housing said Birmingham City Council said: "Prospect Housing has been liaising with us in regard to their options appraisal work. We have a joint commitment to work together to ensure the closure process is well-managed and that there are minimal impacts on their tenants and dedicated support team. "We will be working with them over coming months to ensure this." A spokesperson of the Regulator of Social Housing said: “As an independent registered provider, Prospect has concluded it is not possible to provide all tenants with the quality of accommodation and services they require within the existing commercial constraints in their lease agreements. "The Regulator has been working with Prospect over the last few months including having made three statutory appointments to its board to assist it to explore a full range of options to tackle the governance and viability issues at the organisation. "We will continue to work with Prospect over the coming months...there are over 1,500 registered providers of social housing and it remains the case that the vast majority are meeting the regulatory standards.” Are you affected by this story? Contact Jane Haynes in confidence by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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