Housing experts have praised the UK government’s pledge to keep supported housing in the welfare system after they pledged to scrap proposals including paying through Universal Credit.
The government opened a consultation looking at supported housing – accommodation with services that meets support needs – in October 2017 and mulled over other ways of supporting the most vulnerable like sheltered rent, capping service charges for extra care schemes.
Other proposals included placing local authorities in control of funding short-term accommodation, such as women’s refuges and homelessness shelters, sparking fears that cash would no longer be ring-fenced and diverted elsewhere.
Nearly 3 years totally wasted before Ministers back down completely under @UKLabour and campaigner pressure from plans which caused uncertainty for thousands of hostels and other specialist housing – and freeze on all new schemes https://t.co/ATTiA7v0oe
— John Healey MP (@JohnHealey_MP) August 9, 2018
But the government announced today that all of the proposals will be dropped, alongside plans for a further consultation on long-term supported housing, with all housing costs remaining in the benefit system.
Housing Minister Kit Malthouse MP said: “Protection of the most vulnerable has always been our primary concern, and following our consultation, the case for keeping supported housing in the welfare system became clear.”
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The move has been welcomed by housing experts and industry bodies, who have praised the end of uncertainty for both themselves and local authorites.
The National Housing Federation revealed that the government will now carry out a review of housing-related support to uncover how housing and support can fit together more effectively going forward.
The housing body had sent a letter to ministers ahead of the announcement, alongside for Homeless Link and Women’s Aid, calling for increased transparency and oversight of housing costs in supported housing.
“After years of uncertainty, we are delighted that housing costs will remain in the social security system for all supported housing, sheltered and extra care,” said chief executive David Orr.
“This announcement means that hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are vulnerable, will continue to receive the support they need by right, through the social security system. It gives them the certainty and security they need and deserve.”
Today’s #SupportedHousing announcement ends the funding uncertainty – it’s great news after all our work on this issue with @natfednews @rethink_ and others! #StartsAtHome #UKHousing. Here's our CEO @RH_OneHousing's comment: pic.twitter.com/qgMSSwlVKE
— One Housing (@Official_OHG) August 9, 2018
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, praised the announcement, insisting that it will provide the certainty required to attract investors. “This announcement will give councils and housing providers the certainty to sustain and invest in supported housing for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities,” she said.
“A sustainable funding model for supported housing is critical to ensuring councils can reduce homelessness and help older and other vulnerable people.
“It is, however, crucial that councils have the leading role in overseeing and ensuring the provision of housing for vulnerable groups is good quality, value for money, and fits in with the wider local services offered in places.”
A welcome end to the uncertainty surrounding funding of short term supported housing. Hopefully this gives providers the reassurance they need to keep doing what they do so well to help people in urgent housing need. https://t.co/eNFPDYILx1
— Melanie Rees FCIH (@MelanieReesCIH) August 9, 2018
The move has inspired calls from the umbrella body for providers of homelessness, housing related support and social care services in Wales Cymorth Cymru for the Welsh government to follow suit.
The Welsh government is currently considering plans to merge their Supporting People programme and Homelessness Prevention Grant (HPG) funding into an Early Intervention, Prevention and Support ‘supergrant’.
Cymorth Cymru director Katie Dalton said: “While we welcome the UK government’s announcement on housing costs in supported accommodation, we remain extremely concerned about the uncertainty surrounding support funding in Wales.
“This announcement does not change the focus of the #HousingMattersWales campaign – we are still calling on the Welsh Government to create a ring-fenced homelessness and housing related support grant, which would provide certainty for the sector and the 60,000 people who use these services each year.”