Government announces there will be no decision on LHA caps or future funding of supported housing until "early in the autumn"

Thursday, 21 July 2016 - 12:56pm

Yesterday, for the second time in two weeks, the House of Commons debated the issue of the future funding of supported housing and the LHA caps, following an Opposition Day motion.

The debate was timely because, with our member agencies, we had been hoping that the Government would, by the end of the Parliamentary session (21st July) publish the long-awaited evidence review and their plans for taking the issue forward.

As you will see below, this did not happen.

The positives in the debate

The debate largely took place in a spirit of cross-party unity. 23 speakers all praised the work of supported housing. Most MPs spoke of excellent supported housing facilities in their constituencies. And some even stated that visiting these services was one of the most rewarding parts of their job. This consensus seemed to stretch to an agreement that reductions to the public purse could not take place at the cost of supported housing.  Many highlighted the financial savings that investment in this type of accommodation makes. Finally a number of MPs pointed out the financial insecurity amongst both service users and providers which had been created by the delay.

The negatives in the debate

There was much frustration amongst MPs that the Review had still to report and that it would not be able to do so before the end of the Parliamentary session.

"Whilst we are strong advocates of the Government taking as long as is needed to find a solution to future funding, we feel that a removal of supported housing from the LHA caps does not need such a level of analysis."

Homeless Link share the frustration of a number of speakers at the timetable the Government has announced for this:

"I understand the urgency of this matter. I have committed to making an announcement early in the autumn setting out the Government’s views on what the future funding solution should look like. That announcement will also set out plans for working with the sector and other key stakeholders to ensure a safe transition to the new model."

Whilst we are strong advocates of the Government taking as long as is needed to find a solution to future funding, we feel that a removal of supported housing from the LHA caps does not need such a level of analysis. It seems to be generally accepted that the caps would wipe out virtually all supported housing for homeless people. With no announcement until autumn agencies have to face an uncertain summer with the potential impacts of the cap looming closer.

Going forward

The definition of early autumn is open tointerpretation. Last year’s Autumn Statement came one month before Christmas. Because of the Party Conferences the Parliamentary session which starts on 5th September will be a short one, going back into recess on the 15th. If nothing is published in that small window, then it will have to be after the 10th October when Parliament reconvenes.

During the summer period we will continue our ongoing dialogue with the wider supported housing sector and with Government.

One other piece of information which was released yesterday was a revised timetable for the migration of existing benefit claimants onto Universal Credit. This process is now scheduled to begin in mid 2019 and will not complete until mid 2022.

This is significant for two reasons:

  1. It means the majority of tenants in supported housing projects will remain outside of the Universal Credit system for at least the next two years.
  2. It also suggests that Housing Benefit will be around until at least 2022. This in turn gives more time to develop a new system for future funding, as long as the LHA caps threat is removed. As any new mechanism will be unchartered territory, we believe the Government should put in place a timetable which gives plenty of time to develop and test a new funding mechanism before committing to it.      

If we receive any further information, we will of course share it as soon as we can.