The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions today published plans to change future funding for the supported housing sector.

Responding to Damien Green’s written statement on supported housing, chief executive of United Response, Tim Cooper, said:

“Having somewhere to call home – that offers a safe and welcoming place to live, is something that most of us take for granted. Today’s proposals from the Government on the future funding of supported housing threaten that right for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“Plans to cap housing benefit and universal credit at Local Housing Allowance (LHA) levels for supported housing, and devolve funding to local authorities for controlled top ups for any additional costs are deeply worrying.

“These proposals create even greater uncertainly about the future of supported housing which is vital for people with learning disabilities and mental health needs to live in the community.

“The Government’s own transforming care agenda advocates that thousands of people with disabilities are supported to live in their own homes in the community. Of these people, the vast majority rely on housing benefit to pay their rent; it is their lifeline. The future of existing services are now under threat and the development of new services has today become markedly harder than it already has been.

“In last year’s Autumn statement, the Government announced that they intended to cap Housing Benefit rates for supported housing at the same level as the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) from 2018 onwards.

“Only last month United Response signed an open letter to the Government calling for a sustainable future funding model for the sector beyond 2018, today’s statement fails to offer this.

“It is unclear how proposals to devolve funding to local authorities to provide additional top ups will work. Although we are pleased that there will be a ring-fence around the devolved funding, and that the Shared Accommodation Rate will not apply to people living in supported housing; we are concerned about whether the proposed model will be sustainable. 

“The announcement poses unanswered questions - for example the size of the devolved funding packages, whether they will receive an annual uplift, and how the process will work locally. Supported housing desperately needs to be put on a secure and sustainable footing for the long term, and we are not confident that the new system will guarantee this.

“Previous changes in Government policy to devolve the way that councils are funded, mean that budgets for social care and housing services are already incredibly overstretched, and unlikely to cope with this additional burden. 

“The Government’s record on devolving funding responsibility for social care to local authorities, whilst leaving them with insufficient funds to pay for services, speaks for itself.

“Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of Government moves over the past six years which have dramatically undermined the ability of disabled people to live as equal citizens in local communities.

“The vast majority of new supported housing projects are already on hold, and under these proposals are unlikely to move forward. High numbers of existing supported accommodation schemes are now at high risk.

“Investment in supported housing stock is desperately needed, by the Government’s own admission for its own transforming care agenda.

“It is widely agreed that community based housing solutions not only improve the independence and quality of life for disabled people, but save the exchequer vast amounts of money. Not only are vulnerable people at risk of returning to ‘pre-Winterbourne’ inappropriate institutions or hospitals, but support in these settings costs the Government and the NHS far more than properly funded supported housing within the community.

“United Response hopes that the Government listens to these concerns in the forthcoming consultation, and acts to take responsibility for a truly sustainable future funding model for supported housing.”

Tim Cooper, Chief Executive, United Response