The announcement by the government around the future funding of supported housing
is most definitely welcome. The decision to maintain Housing Benefit for all supported housing, and to drop the proposals
for a sheltered rent regime will go a long way towards securing the future investment in supported housing for all ages, and to avoid some of the very challenging scenarios the proposals presented around the interplay between working age locally funded short term supported housing, and longer term provision for older people and people with disabilities.
So – a time to draw a collective sigh of relief – and then to think about the lessons learned from this challenging conundrum. The original announcement to cap social housing rents at the Local Housing Allowance level was made in November 2015 by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. The inclusion of supported housing in this caused an almost immediate halt to the development of large swathes of supported housing. The ongoing uncertainty about revenue funding following the demise of local authority preventative spend, topped up by uncertainty over rental income, caused many providers to mothball, or shelve plans for schemes. This at a time when other parts of government were desperately seeking to stimulate new build around both older people, and crucially the provision of homes for people with disabilities in line with the ‘Transforming Care’ agenda. The decision to cap social housing in line with the LHA was dropped for general needs housing last Autumn, yet still the uncertainty continued for supported housing, up until this long awaited announcement.
However, of course, the threat/promise of reform has gone on much longer than that, with reviews, research and debate on the shape and the scope of the sector stretching back over long forgotten reviews – the Blood review, the sheltered housing scoping research and more….. is this beginning to sound familiar to care colleagues?
Often the ‘too difficult’ decisions for government are characterised by the complex interplay between competing priorities, agendas for change and money. Or to put it in a nutshell – because they affect people. Within care, the long held recognition, and embedding in legislation, that people are at the centre of decisions, sheds a penetrating light on the often bamboozling mesh within which people are seeking to survive, never mind thrive. What this latest ‘non’ decision has shown, is that it is incredibly difficult for government to pull on one part of the thread, in this case funding the rental costs of supported housing, without causing a gaping hole in other areas of the ‘safety net’.
Now that ‘regime change’ is no longer on the table for supported housing, and Autumn is on its way, it is time for the government to grasp the opportunity to look across the care, health and housing needs of community. With a Secretary of State with prevention on his mind, a green paper with reform in its ambition, and some certainty of funding for health, the opportunity to bring together this triumvirate of care, health and housing in an ambitious shared and joined up agenda for change should surely be within our sights?