Where next for supported housing agenda post-Brexit?

Friday, 1 July 2016 - 11:25am

Speaking at a CIH Conference this week, Lord Freud set out an agenda and timetable for policy around supported housing that so far seems unaffected by the fallout from Brexit.

There has been a great deal of speculation as to whether all the current political uncertainty and the forthcoming arrival in September of a new top-team at the top of Government will have an impact on the plans for supported housing. Fortunately, one figure who has remained in place during the current turbulence is the Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud.

Yesterday at the CIH Conference he gave a speech where he specifically addressed the issue of supported housing. You can read the full speech on .gov.uk, but some of the key quotes include:

The supported housing sector is vital to the delivery of so many of the government’s policy objectives – not only in my own area of work and pensions. It plays a crucial role in ensuring:

  • that those with learning difficulties can live as independent a life as possible
  • that vulnerable elderly people have somewhere to grow old safely
  • and that care leavers can make the transition to self-reliance

For hundreds of thousands of people across the country – from those with mental health conditions, to ex-offenders, to those escaping domestic violence – the importance of supported housing cannot be overestimated.

What is important now is that we make decisions on the future of the sector based on the best available evidence.

And that we ensure support is focused on the most vulnerable, with appropriate safeguards.

We recognise that the vast majority of providers deliver a genuine and valuable service, however, on the rare occasions where it does exist, we want to root out sub-standard treatment that does the most vulnerable of people in our society a great disservice.

That is why my department – jointly with the Department for Communities and Local Government, who you will hear from later today – commissioned a supported housing evidence review, nearly 2 years ago.

This will tell us much more about the shape, scale and cost of the sector. And it is the first such evidence review in over 20 years.

The review is now nearing its end and we hope to be able to publish it shortly.

This is of course an issue that affects many parts of government and our colleagues in the devolved administrations. I am working with a broad range of ministerial colleagues to find the policy solution to this issue.

An important part of this policy work is talking to you, the sector. You are not just a vital sector but a diverse one.

That makes it even more essential that we engage extensively with you ahead of bringing forward any proposals. So we fully understand how the system works at present on the ground.

For me, answering the question of long term reform also offers us an opportunity to think about how this crucial sector operates. For example:

  • What can we do to ensure that quality and an outcomes focus are at the heart of what we do?
  • How can we ensure that the system allows for and indeed drives innovation to build on what we know already works”

Building on this review, we will work with you to put in place appropriate protections. So that those who need supported accommodation – often the most vulnerable in our society – have appropriate and sustainable housing.

Lord Freud's speech suggests that the broad timetable and agenda for going forward – publication in July followed by consultation over the Summer -  has been so far unaffected by the fallout from Brexit. However, the sector does need to see some action around the LHA caps and 1% Rent Reduction quickly, as these are due to come in next April, so it is vital these are addressed in July before the Parliamentary recess.

While we greatly welcome the commitment to "engage extensively with you ahead of bringing forward any proposals", we think it is vital that arbitrary deadlines are not set which abridge the process of getting to the best solution. We all need to spend as long as it takes to get this right.

Next Tuesday, at our annual conference Under One Roof 2016 you will have an opportunity to debate the principles that should underpin any new funding system and to help envisage what such a system would look like.

Finally, we would like to thank all the agencies who have helped us with evidence and campaigning support on this issue thus far. We genuinely believe it is helping shape Government thinking on the issue.