Independent lives start at home

1 September 2017 | 1 September 2017

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While government decides how to best fund supported housing in the future, one thing is clear – these places are so crucial for those that make them home, and we need long-term, sustainable investment as demand grows.

At Sovereign, we believe a safe and secure home is the cornerstone of everybody’s life, and supported housing provides this for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. Equally, it can be the short-term safety net for people in crisis.

Through hostels, refuges, supported living shared housing, extra care schemes and sheltered housing, supported housing helps people with learning disabilities and mental health issues, as well as flexible options for older people that can meet their changing needs.

Crisis accommodation helps people fleeing domestic abuse or those who’ve become homeless. We also support vulnerable young people, such as care leavers, to move on, get a job or education, and to live independently.

For those in need, these are places of safety, a stable and supportive place to live, and for many, it’s a stepping stone to independent living in the longer term.

For some, it’s a vital life-long support that helps them to live independently in the community, and the impact of supported housing is clear from the vast number of people it’s already helping.

It’s a diverse service, but the difference it makes is life-changing. Housing associations provide over 70% of the supported housing in Great Britain. We own around 4,000 homes specifically for older people, and 1,000 specialist supported homes where we provide extra support to residents with diverse needs.

The security these homes give to residents is immeasurable; especially at a time when funding for social care is severely constrained.

So now, in our ever changing political climate, we’re looking to our politicians to help us sustain this support.

The funding and development of supported housing is complex. Buildings with specialised designs are often coupled with legal restrictions on their use. To effectively develop supported housing, we need to be able to fund a home across a 30-year business plan, and be confident that the costs of both developing and running the property can be covered for the full period.

Historically, this has been achieved through a combination of grant funding, higher rents, and service charges to cover the provision of additional facilities, such as common rooms. However, changes to national policy, including welfare reform, the rapid review of the ten-year rent settlement, and the removal of the Supporting People ring-fence, have made supported housing providers question where future revenue will come from.

For organisations to be able to build new supported housing they need to know that their investment is sound and can provide a sustainable, long-term service.

So, in supported housing, we’ve been looking to the government and waiting with anticipation, asking, how will the new funding model work for this specialist, more expensive housing?

A good solution would be for the costs associated with the physical structure of accommodation (such as additional capital costs, or the running costs of communal facilities) to be covered by a special Local Housing Allowance rate. The costs associated with personal support could be met separately through a more flexible ‘top up’ grant, tailored to individual needs.

They’ll need to consider how funding for emergency and short-term placements will work, as these have the potential to have a big impact on our services.

We agree there needs to be a clear definition about what is meant by emergency and short-term housing. The short periods of occupancy mean that managing the funding of this type of housing under Universal Credit or Housing Benefit would be unrealistic, and we support the need for a different process.

Looking to the future, funding could be allocated to the provider to cover the cost of housing and support rather than the individuals who would be using it, but to really get to grips with the new funding model, we need to understand the value, both financial and social, of providing good supported housing.

Rather than solely concentrating on making funding available for existing provision, we would like the government to also consider how it is going to fund future need.

While the changes are under review and not due to start until 2019, we plan and build for the long-term. With projects on hold, waiting for clarity, we may find we won’t be able to help the most vulnerable in our communities in the future, at the moment when they need it most.