03 May 2017
A welcome report into the future of supported housing
Over the last few months, there has been a joint select committee inquiry taking place that has been looking at the role of sheltered housing in the UK and plans to change how it is funded. Made up of members from the Communities & Local Government and Work & Pensions Select Committees, the final report from the inquiry has now been published. It makes for some interesting - and welcome - reading, not least around some of the recommendations it contains.
Hanover, together with other leading providers Anchor and Housing & Care 21, made a joint submission to the inquiry arguing that the proposals to cap the Housing Benefit payable to tenants of supported housing at the level of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) would be very damaging for housing for older people, introducing great anxiety and complexity for tenants whilst putting the viability of a number of schemes at risk. It would seem that our concerns are shared by the Committee and the evidence we provided is referenced throughout the report.
On balance, I found that while the report is critical of the Government’s current proposals, it still manages to broadly represent the views of the Conservative Co-Chair of the inquiry (Richard Graham of the Work and Pensions Committee) and his Co-Chair, Helen Hayes, the Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood (and member of the Communities and Local Government Committee).
Overall though, perhaps the most telling observations from the report is its conclusion that the use of the LHA rate is “inappropriate” and that the Government’s proposed reform could lead to a serious shortfall in the availability of supported housing.
The committees also recommend the introduction of a new funding mechanism, the Supported Housing Allowance, which would be banded to reflect the actual cost of provision in the sector. Introducing this, they say, would ensure tenants only require top-funding in “exceptional circumstances". They also call for the Government to establish a set of national standards to enable monitoring of the quality of provision in all supported housing in England and Wales, with a specific emphasis on improving the quality of life that tenants experience.
Parliament has now dissolved as MPs gear up for an election. That means we’re uncertain over what a new Ministerial team may focus on once the dust settles and we will need to see whether this report has any impact on Government thinking and if – as hoped - it leads to a complete rethink on the LHA cap. The Government originally envisaged publishing a green paper on the proposals “in the spring” but that is now looking unlikely. Watch this space!