On Tuesday 31st October, Local Government Minister Marcus Jones announced proposals for the future funding of supported housing.

The past two years have been a worrying time for both United Response and the people we support, the vast majority of whom rely on housing benefit to pay for their rent and which allows them to live in a home of their own in the community.

A year ago, the government announcement that they would limit the amount of housing benefit available to the people we support to the relevant Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate created further instability, with the National Housing Federation (NHF) stating that a significant percentage, as high as 50%, of supported housing schemes which require enhanced levels of housing benefit to cover their costs would close if this reform is implemented. The NHF also stated that the proposed changes had caused an 85% drop in new homes for the most vulnerable

The Houses of ParliamentUnited Response submitted our concerns in a response to a Government Consultation on Supported Housing, and last week reiterated these at a meeting with the minister Marcus Jones.

We are optimistic that Government has listened to concerns

In response to Tuesday’s announcement, we are now optimistic that government has listened to the concerns raised and is no longer proceeding in a way that was likely to have a negative impact on the vulnerable people in our society and housing providers alike.  The announcement that long-term supported housing, such as housing for people with learning or physical disabilities or mental ill health, will continue to be funded via the welfare system was accompanied by recognition of the diverse nature of the supported housing sector and a commitment from government to continue to fund all eligible housing costs for supported housing and provide long-term funding solutions to ensure new supply is delivered.

It is essential to deliver the highest standards of housing and care

The Government’s statement set out plans to develop and implement an approach that will ensure greater cost control across the sector while driving up outcomes for vulnerable people. At United Response, we support this focus on outcomes and value for money. However, we believe that the housing we provide must continue to meet the highest possible standards and we shall continue to lobby Government that any cost saving measures do not come at the expense of standards and quality for the people we support.

In line with its own Transforming Care agenda, government should constantly push for funding and systems that allow providers to deliver the highest standards, both of accommodation and care and support. This will both deter the small number of providers that have taken advantage of housing benefit regulations and also helps to ensure that long-term supported housing for people with learning disabilities is perceived as high quality, and offers value for money to the tax-payer.

Detail is needed

At the same time, there are certain questions that remain unanswered and a distinct lack of detail about how things might work in practice. This includes how exempt and specified accommodation might be treated in the future and what will happen to certain service charges if and when housing benefit for supported housing become part of the Universal Credit system.

United Response will continue to work hard to ensure that as the proposals are further developed and implemented, that we work together to ensure greater cost control across the sector while driving up outcomes for the people we support.

Find out more about our supported housing offer

Written by Ben Harrison, United Response's Head of Housing