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Charter of Rights for Exempt Accommodation in Birmingham 

Charter of Rights for Exempt Accommodation in Birmingham 

Charter of Rights for Exempt Accommodation in Birmingham 

Monday, May 24, 2021

In 2019 Spring Housing Association were asked by Birmingham City Council to develop and co-produce a Charter of Rights with and for residents of non-commissioned exempt accommodation in Birmingham. The aim was to help address the lack of choice, understanding and control many residents felt they had over their accommodation.

The Charter sets out residents' rights as follows: "Everyone living in exempt supported accommodation has a right to feel safe and protected; to live in decent conditions; to privacy, and to receive the support they are entitled to."

Spring Housing have shared the following blog about creating this Charter in close partnership with current residents of exempt accommodation and those with lived experience.

Many of you will have seen, a variety of articles around a number of issues regarding leased based exempt accommodation providers.  A good number of these providers manage a high density of these services in Birmingham.  At the time I write this article there are over 20,000 bedspaces of accommodation in the City - the vast majority of this provision is non-commissioned and based on lease model with a registered provider as the head landlord and providers working under an umbrella to provide a range of housing management and support services.  

The emergence of more commercially minded leased based registered providers has undeniably shifted the landscape of supported housing in a number of areas in England. This style of provision is increasingly replacing the still depleted statutory services often without strategic oversight from local or regional authorities.  

In 2019 Spring Housing Association were asked by Birmingham City Council to develop and co-produce a Charter of Rights with residents and for residents living in, or considering living in, non-commissioned exempt accommodation.  

This project was commissioned after extensive research and engagement work carried out within the non-commissioned exempt sector over the previous three years. The most significant pieces of work around this were two reports published in 2018 and 2019. The first report Risk, Safety and Wellbeing in Non-commissioned Exempt Accommodation was commissioned by Birmingham Safeguarding Adults Board and carried out by The Housing and Communities Research Group at the University of Birmingham, in partnership with Spring Housing. The second report, Exempt from Responsibility?’: Ending Social Injustice in Exempt Accommodation’ was commissioned by Commonweal Housing and carried out by Spring Housing and the Housing and Communities Research Group.  

Broadly, the research publications highlighted the following key issues: 

  • The lack of agreed standards, independent oversight, and monitoring; both at regulatory levels and once residents are housed. 
  • The wide range of untracked and unmonitored referral points.  
  • The potential risks if groups of residents are housed together without appropriate pre-assessment and monitoring.  
  • The lack of transparency and understanding about what this specific part of the sector is ‘offering’ to residents, and attendant concerns about whether it is always equipped to meet resident need. 

 Further to this, extensive engagement work with tenants has highlighted: 

  • The lack of choice, understanding and control many residents feel they have over their accommodation placements and living environments.  
  • Common experiences of isolation, insecurity and lack of privacy, and the corresponding negative effects on mental health, wellbeing, and safety. 
  • A lack of awareness of rights and a lack of opportunities for residents to have any input or involvement in their accommodation and their communities.  

The Development of the Charter 

The engagement and development phases adopted a ‘participatory’ approach; in close partnership with current residents of exempt accommodation, or those with lived experience. Resident-participants were consulted at every step of the process, to ensure the final product was meaningful, useful, and accessible.  

We worked with independent people who specialise in community and participatory approaches who were contracted to carry out engagement work with residents. We ensured that the people involved didn’t have any prior experience of the exempt sector in Birmingham and so were able to approach the project with complete independence, ensuring residents’ views and voices could be centralised throughout the process.  

Over 50 individuals with lived experience participated across the development stages. 

The workshop material and draft Charter were refined and finalised by the Project Lead, by our Head of Best Practice and Research Thea Raisbeck, who has also written an accompanying guide for landlords and providers of non-commissioned exempt accommodation. This accompanying guide has been written to help landlords and providers utilise and implement the Charter of Rights within their organisations.  It aims to help organisations consolidate, clarify, and build upon their existing practices. This will ensure that they are able to respond to their residents safely, effectively, and consistently, and identify clear linkages between management practices and resident experience. 

The Charter and its accompanying guidance are as much about values and principles as they are about policy and procedure.  

Next Steps  

The Charter has now been officially launched and we have been really pleased by voluntary take up of the Charter (so much so that the pilot phase has been oversubscribed) and the feedback has been really positive in the infancy stages of launch - putting residents’ voices back in the centre of the conversation of supported housing is extremely important to us.  

It’s been pleasing to be part of a movement that is strongly reinforcing what the Social Housing White Paper is really focussing on - changes to the consumer regulation and emphasising that co regulation is a 3-way deal between tenants - organisations and the regulator.  

The changes in the Housing Ombudsman Complaints Code, and the long-awaited National Statement of Expectations for Supported Housing (where our Charter is referenced.) is also really positive!  All of these changes are facing in the same direction that out of the shadow of Grenfell, residents and tenants’ voices will be heard.  

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