What's the future for supported housing?

Tuesday, 12 April 2016 - 4:45pm

We take a look at the new House of Commons Library briefing paper and discuss what it means for the future of supported housing.

On 2nd April 2016 the House of Commons Library published a useful Briefing Paper called  Paying for Supported Housing covering the recent background to current discussions taking place around the Future Funding of Rents in supported housing. Although the briefing does not go beyond how the situation has developed since 2011, it is a useful summary covering the recent period since then.

It is beneficial, not only giving a perspective over recent years but because it also suggests that even Members of Parliament do not yet know how any future funding programme will be shaped. The summary page of the document explicitly states:

“This policy is still being developed, there is no legislation currently before Parliament concerning this measure”

The document also outlines some of the arguments that have been made to Government and some of the key questions that remain unanswered.  

The briefing does bring together in one place a number of key links to other documents which will help frame discussions over the forthcoming period. These include:

a) The Government’s 2011 consultation on future funding.

b) The (abandoned) 2011 proposals which followed from that consultation exercise.    

c) The 2015 Spending Review and 2016 Budget documents which both mention protection for supported housing in the context of plans to cap social housing rents at Local Housing Allowance Rates. Neither the Spending Review nor the Budget offered specifics on how these protections will be formulated.  

d) Notes of the debate in the House of Commons on the issue in January 2016.

e) The terms of reference of the research into supported housing being carried out on behalf of DWP and DCLG which will influence future policy development.

f) The regulations temporarily excepting supported housing from the 1% Rent Reduction.

The briefing comes at a time when there are many unanswered points being raised by homelessness agencies relating to the future of supported housing.

i) When exactly the research commissioned by DWP and DCLG will be made available in the public domain. Although the document mentions Spring, legal rules around publication of Government documents during times of elections and referenda may make this difficult.

ii) What will the process be of developing any new funding stream? What is the timetable? How can agencies get involved?

iii) Will any new programme of funding operate in a way which protects resources for supported housing? What reassurances will be in place for agencies developing new schemes that they will be financially viable?  

These are all questions Homeless Link is pursuing in discussions currently with Government officials and those conducting the review of supported housing. There may be delays in further developments in this vital area, until both the local elections and European Union referendum are completed. This is because there are restrictions as to the information Government can publish around periods of public votes such as these.

Nonetheless, we will continue to work with the sector to reach a consensus about what a future supported housing system should look like. At Homeless Link’s annual conference on 5th and 6th July 2016 we will be hosting a debate on the Future Funding of supported housing and we hope you will join us at this. For more details please visit: http://www.homeless.org.uk/events/under-one-roof. Also do look out for further consultation activity over the coming months as we seek the answers to these critical issues.


UPDATE 13/4/16

MPs discussed the issue yesterday, following the publication of the Briefing Paper. This debate was arranged by Nick Brown MP for Newcastle upon Tyne East, who also wrote this useful piece.

A dozen MPs spoke, representing Labour, Conservative and the SNP. All called on the Government to find ways to protect supported housing in the future. Many voiced the problems that the current uncertainty is already causing.

Brandon Lewis MP, the Minister of State for Housing and Planning, summarised the Government position:

“While looking after the most vulnerable in society, we must also ensure that funding for supported housing is efficient, workable, transparent and sustainable, in order to provide a secure, quality service that delivers for those who need it and makes the best use of the money available. As the right hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown) outlined, my Department and the Department for Work and Pensions—this issue crosses Departments—have jointly commissioned an evidence review of the supported housing sector. That review will help us to shape the future based on the latest evidence of the current scope and scale of the supported housing sector. It has included extensive consultation with local authorities, supported housing commissioners and all types of supported housing providers, be it charities, housing associations or providers from the commercial sector. The review will report shortly, and we will continue to work with and listen to the sector as part of developing a long-term, sustainable funding regime.”

Unfortunately, there were no specifics beyond “will report shortly” as to when the report will be in the public domain. As soon as it becomes available, we will ensure links and summaries are available.     

Read the full text of the debate