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Positive change for carers announced but concerns still remain: Housing and Planning Bill

28 April 2016

Jenny Luckett
Policy, Research and Public Affairs Officer, Carers UK

Yesterday evening was the Third Reading of the Housing and Planning Bill in the House of Lords and there have been some positive developments for carers since we submitted evidence to Peers and to Government on the specific challenges faced by carers.

 

Our last comment piece on the Housing and Planning Bill looked at the negative impacts of changes to social housing tenancies for carers. Whilst the abolition of lifetime tenancies remains, the Government has changed its stance on only issuing 5 year tenancies as a maximum length. For the first time, caring will be formally recognised in statutory guidance on housing. Yesterday, the Government announced in debate that families with a child under 9 will be granted a tenancy that lasts until the child is an adult which is particularly important for families where there is a disabled child.  Statutory guidance will also issued to local authorities stating the other circumstances when they should offer a longer, 10 year, tenancy.

This includes "households where there is someone with a disability or long-term illness, older people, and those who provide long-term care for a person in this situation."

This is a positive development and we are really pleased that our campaigning has paid off and carers and people with disabilities are included in this.

Carers UK also raised the issue with Government that if carers move in order to provide care, or be close to the person they care for, they risk losing their current lifetime tenancy. We want to see carers clearly covered in the Government’s guidance on what happens when someone moves and they have a lifetime tenancy. We will be providing evidence to relevant officials and parliamentarians to demonstrate the case for carers, based our experience of our Advice and Information Services and our research with carers.

We remain concerned about what happens at the end of a tenancy – a problem facing all tenants. Government has said that this will be covered in the forthcoming guidance. Carers UK will be seeing how we can ensure that carers do not unnecessarily lose their home when their tenancy ends.

One of the other major concerns Carers UK had with the Bill was the changes to succession of council tenancies. We know that this is an area that many of our members are very worried about. We have raised this with Government, we will continue to look at how we can ensure carers are considered in the guidelines that will be issued to assist local authorities to exercise their discretion.

The Housing and Planning Bill has also introduced a new provision to stop tenants with the new fixed-term council tenancy from making or being compensated for any ‘improvements’ that they make to the property – another area Carers UK is concerned about since adaptations to a home are vital for people with disabilities and their families. This issue has not been resolved. The Government have responded stating that they believe it is up to the landlords, who would have to pay the compensation, to grant such rights within the tenancy agreement, if they choose. We will be pressing for guidance to be issued on this as the Bill passes back to the Commons.

The Housing and Planning Bill returns to the Commons on Tuesday where we hope the amendments made in the Lords will be passed. The Bill certainly looks much more positive for carers than it did before, although there are still huge concerns around the implications of the Bill for carers and more widely for housing.

With the call for evidence for the Carers Strategy now open, Carers UK will be submitting a paper on housing and carers that presses the importance of integration between health, housing and social care. It is vital that housing is recognised as part of the solution towards building a sustainable future for care and caring.

 

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