CIH welcome supported housing funding announcement - but what next?
The long awaited response from government on its supported housing funding framework has now been published – and it will be greeted with a huge sense of relief from the sector, giving providers the confidence to start building supported housing again.
The government’s ambition to develop a new funding framework for supported housing has a long history – the earliest proposals to link rents to the local housing allowance were floated way back in 2011. In particular the proposals to shift funding for short term supported housing from the welfare system to a grant administered by local authorities raised alarm across the sector, and led to many providers putting plans for any new housing of that type on hold.
It raised memories of the final stages of the supporting people programme, where the ring fence was removed from the local grant at the same time that councils’ funding was severely reduced, leading to the loss of a lot of housing related support as councils struggled to meet the increasing demand for statutory services.
There was huge worry that history would repeat itself, but this time it would hit funding for the ‘bricks and mortar’, and could threaten the viability of the accommodation itself. CIH called on government to rethink this approach, so to see in the announcement that government has clearly listened is a great result, and the right one for all the people that this valuable housing supports.
The decision not to continue to develop a regulated 'sheltered rent' will give more confidence for ongoing development of new retirement and extra care housing for older people across the country. This type of housing provides really valuable opportunities for people to live and age well with dignity, and helps to reduce the increasing demand on care and health services.
But change will still be coming - the government has indicated it will develop robust assurance around quality and value for money, building on the draft statement of national expectations.
When we surveyed our members, half told us that they had retained systems to monitor quality, largely through the contracts of service agreements on commissioned services, so we have some structures to build on for this. The statement of expectations also included requirements to assess and plan for levels of need across client groups – if this is rolled out a lot more support for councils and providers will be needed to put this in place – members’ feedback indicated that two-thirds weren’t ready to implement this and would need at least another year to 18 months to gear up to do so. Arguably this is still an important element of the statement of expectations, if we are to work towards a strategic and planned approach to meet local and national needs for supported housing.
As stalled schemes are revived and new ones planned, we still need to be prepared for challenge that these are affordable, high quality and deliver for the taxpayer as well as the tenants.
Sarah Davis, senior policy and practice officer, CIH