Exempt accommodation: Birmingham MP fears government is giving away billions of pounds to rogue landlords

Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham, Ladywood, has raised questions about how much money the Department for Work and Pensions is spending on exempt accommodation

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A Birmingham MP fears the government is pouring billions of pounds into the pockets of “cowboy landlords” and “unethical providers” managing exempt accommodation.

The housing sector is often used for people with few other housing options who are among the most vulnerable in our communities - such as prison leavers, rough sleepers, refugees and migrants and those experiencing substance abuse issues.

The exempt sector is managed by central government - not local authorities, which processes housing benefit claims only.

A recent landmark report by Prospect Housing estimated the sector is costing local authorities across the UK up to £1 billion a year in housing benefit.

But when Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, wrote to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to ask for an official figure on the money being spent in the sector she was told the the Government answered that it does not collect statistics on this issue as it would be “too costly” for it to do so.

Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham LadywoodShabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood
Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood

Ms Mahmood says she has seen multiple reports which have proven that the sector is rife with abuse.

She says complaints include “unscrupulous providers falsifying contractual agreements, failing to provide adequate care provision, and obscuring their activities with not-for-profit status”.

She also told of her alarm that the system is failing the vulnerable people it is supposed to protect, leaving many in substandard accommodation where substance abuse and antisocial behaviour are commonplace.

“It’s well-known that the supported exempt accommodation sector is a license to print money for cowboy landlords and unethical providers,” she said.

“But this response proves that the Government is looking the other way, refusing to address the problem and pouring potentially billions of pounds of public funds into the pockets of rogue operators.

“The Government is wasting an eye-watering amount of taxpayers’ money while it tinkers around the edges of the exempt sector, yet shows no will to investigate how much the bill might be.

“They need to get a grip on this sector, and fast, and do right by vulnerable residents and hardworking taxpayers.”

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