Government has unveiled its plans for the future funding of supported housing.
The plans reveal that supported housing, including refuges and all forms of short-term supported housing, will be funded by housing benefit and kept outside of the Universal Credit system.
The LGA was quick to welcome the announcement, saying it will “give councils and housing providers the certainty to sustain and invest in supported housing for some of the most vulnerable people”.
Housing Minister, Kit Malthouse MP, said: “Protection of the most vulnerable has always been our primary concern, and following our consultation, the case for keeping supported housing in the welfare system became clear.
“The sector also recognised that our aim of improving the quality of homes must be addressed, and we look forward to now working with partners to make sure we have strong measures in place.”
Minister for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance, Justin Tomlinson MP, said: “We are committed to ensuring that vulnerable people have access to the supported housing they need to live safely and independently.
“We value the expertise of stakeholders and have listened carefully to their concerns during the consultation.
“As a result we will continue to pay housing benefit for all supported housing –making sure safe homes are provided for those that need it most.”
Alongside this, Government has also today announced that it will work with providers, local authorities, membership bodies and resident representatives over the coming months to develop a robust oversight regime. This work will ensure quality and value for money across the whole supported housing sector.
In addition, a review of housing related support will be undertaken to better understand how housing and support currently fit together.
It comes after months of uncertainty, with the last update being that government was not going to apply the LHA cap to supported housing, or social housing in general.
A week after that, the government conceded that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach wouldn’t work for the funding of supported housing, some that rose more tensions in the sector.
But this new announcement seems to have gone down well.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “This announcement will give councils and housing providers the certainty to sustain and invest supported housing for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.
“A sustainable funding model for supported housing is critical to ensuring councils can reduce homelessness and help older and other vulnerable people.
“It is, however, crucial that councils have the leading role in overseeing and ensuring the provision of housing for vulnerable groups is good quality, value for money, and fits in with the wider local services offered in places.
“We look forward to working with the Government and our housing and care partners to ensure that the future of supported housing best achieves our ambitions for communities.”
David Orr, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation said: “The sector has worked together to demonstrate the value of supported housing, ensuring the Government understood the need to protect these homes and services and put a funding model in place that would encourage future development.
“This announcement means that hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are vulnerable, will continue to receive the support they need by right, through the social security system.
“It gives them the certainty and security they need and deserve.”
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said: “This will be warmly welcomed by survivors and our member services; housing benefit makes up, on average, around half of a refuge’s income.
“Women in refuge will still be entitled to Universal Credit for assistance with supporting themselves and their families, it is therefore vital that housing benefit continues to work with the wider Universal Credit system.
“Domestic abuse refuges save lives. With on average two women every week being killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales, refuges provide a real lifeline for thousands of women and children experiencing abuse at home.
“Today the government has taken decisive action to protect refuges’ last guaranteed form of funding, they must now work with us to ensure that funding for the support refuges provide for survivors is also secure.”
Chartered Institute of Housing head of policy, Melanie Rees, said: “Along with many other housing organisations we have been calling on the government to rethink its plans for funding short-term supported housing so it’s great to see they have made the right decision.
“This type of housing provides vital support for some of the most vulnerable people in our society – people who have been victims of homelessness or domestic abuse for example – and it is absolutely right that it will continue to be funded by the welfare system.
“Without that certainty there was a real risk that refuges and other supported housing schemes would have been forced to close.”
She added: “We look forward to working with the government and the sector on the plans to develop a new oversight system to ensure quality and value for money in supported housing.”
Homeless Link’s Chief Executive, Rick Henderson, commented: “This announcement is also welcome in light of the imminent publication of the Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy.
“By ensuring a more secure funding regime for supported housing, the sector will be in a stronger position to work alongside the Government in helping to effectively implement the Rough Sleeping Strategy.”
Stuart Ropke, Chief Executive of Community Housing Cymru said: “Supported accommodation in Wales includes homeless hostels, women’s refuges and sheltered accommodation for older people. The services support people off the streets, to live independently and save lives.
“Funding housing costs through Housing Benefit will give landlords and support providers the confidence to continue to sustain and develop housing schemes, ensuring that the residents are receiving the best accommodation possible.
“We must now ensure funding for support is equally protected, through the creation of a Welsh Homelessness & Housing Related Support grant as we have proposed alongside nine other organisations in our Housing Matters report.”
David Montague, Chief Executive of L&Q, said: “It has been an anxious wait but we are delighted that the government has listened to the sector’s concerns in continuing to fund short term supported accommodation through the welfare system and dropping plans to introduce a sheltered rent.
“This is a much more secure guarantee of funding and will assure the viability of future schemes as well as allowing short term supported residents to better transition into independent living.
“We support the aim of regulating costs however the sheltered rent did not recognise the legitimate variation between the cost of running different schemes.
“We look forward to working with government to establish a new robust system for ensuring quality and value for money for supported housing.”
In a joint statement, Jane Ashcroft CBE, Dame Clare Tickell and Bruce Moore said: “We welcome today’s response from the Government on how it wants to ensure the funding for supported housing best meets the needs of those most vulnerable in society, including older people.
“It is clear that the Government has listened to the concerns of the sector and that they have taken on board suggestions that will help alleviate the fear that many providers and tenants felt if the proposed changes to funding had been implemented.
“We are particularly keen to continue working with the Government to make sure the appropriate level of funding provision is in place for tenants.
“This includes having a framework which ensures access to key services, helps provide suitable housing across the country and which provides value for money. This will be essential if we are to help older people to live independently for longer.”
Mark Winstanley, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness said: “This will give the tens of thousands of people who live in supported housing much needed reassurance that their homes are safe from cuts and closure.
“A survey by Rethink Mental Illness of people who work in supported housing services for people with mental illness revealed that 84% believed their service would have been in danger of closure if these new proposals went through.
“Supporting people living with mental illness isn’t just about providing services when they are at their most unwell, but also ensuring that they have the support they need to thrive in the community and stay well. Having a place to call home is central to this.
“We are ready to work with the Government to make sure that high quality supported housing is available for all those who need it.”
Paul Noblet, Head of Public Affairs at Centrepoint said: “People living in supported housing, like the homeless young people Centrepoint supports, are some of the most vulnerable in society.
“The government has rightly recognised that funding for this vital service should be allocated according to the level of need, not a pre-set budget, as Centrepoint has consistently argued.
“It is also welcome news that supported housing residents will not have to rely on Universal Credit to receive this support, given the system continues to be fraught with errors and delays that are causing hardship for many.”