Tuesday saw the Government unveil its plans for the future of supported housing funding. Under the new rules short-term supported accommodation will be funded through a ring-fenced fund to councils, while longer term supported housing will continue to be funded through the welfare system. The announcement follows the news last week that the proposed cap to LHA rates for supported and “wider social” housing will no longer go ahead.
Understandably the news has been welcomed and the reassurance the announcements bring will certainly breathe a new lease of life into long term supported housing options. Others however have pointed out that the plan to fund short term supported accommodation through a ring fenced fund held by councils will lead to insecurity for those providing specialist supported accommodation. Both of these points are valid; whilst the announcement does secure the future of long term supported housing, experience from the Supporting People Programme demonstrates that ring fencing budgets should under no circumstances be taken as gospel.
Across the UK supported housing provides vital support to some of the most vulnerable in our society. Indeed many individuals supported by Commonweal and our project partners – the formerly homeless, survivors of sexual exploitation, refugee families fleeing persecution – benefit from specialist supported accommodation. For the right individuals supported housing benefits not only themselves but wider communities also, reducing the strain on the NHS and other social and government services. For some, this highly intensive supported option is the only one available to them.
Between the relative extremes of the intensive supported housing and expensive and support-free private rental sector, however, there is a large gap in housing provision, a gap far too many find themselves trapped within. Having been overlooked as a priority for housing by their local authority, these individuals find themselves forced to turn to unsupportive PRS tenancies. For many this presents too quick a step to full independence, as they struggle to manage their tenancies placing them at serious risk of homelessness. When returning to their local authority for support, having been deemed a priority need, these individuals are often not given a choice of accommodation options and are placed in unsuitable housing. For many, this will be high intensity supported accommodation.
As a recent report by the APPG for Ending Homelessness highlights, these individuals are becoming an increasingly large cohort as local authorities, lacking an alternative supportive transitional accommodation option continue to place them in intensive supported accommodation unsuitable for their specific needs.
Our Peer Landlord project works with people in this position, and provides supportive shared housing options for those seeking to make progress from homelessness but who do not necessarily need intensive support. Our partners see the hands-on interventions association with longer term supported housing as being potentially detrimental to their progress as they become dependent on the support provided through their accommodation. For these individuals, support intensive accommodation is not only financially expensive; it also has the added cost of stifling their progress and devastating their confidence.
Homelessness prevention among this group is a very achievable goal. However, unless a truly supportive, transitional accommodation option is made available to them, they face a real barrier to independence, as a lack of appropriate accommodation hinders their progress.
As part of Tuesday’s announcements, the Government did commit to holding a consultation on short term supported accommodation. However the basic fact still remains that despite the government lifting the dark LHA cap cloud that hung over many individuals in need of housing support, no real supportive housing option exists to move them away from supported accommodation.
By failing to provide such an option the Government is failing in its duty to provide safety and security for those such as the young adults leaving care supported by Peer Landlord who find themselves pushed into a pre-existing support intensive housing structure. Whilst appropriate for some, for those supported by Peer Landlord an alternative supportive not supported housing option is desperately needed.
– Edward Lowe- Policy and Communications Coordinator