Six things the government needs to consider about supported housing funding
As the first stage of the government's consultation on a new funding framework for supported housing closes, senior policy and practice officer Sarah Davis details our six key concerns.
1) The funding framework, particularly the top up fund, has to be adequately sized and resourced, so that people do not fall into arrears on the transition to the new system
This is a real concern across England, Scotland and Wales, as how the top up fund will be calculated has not been explicitly set out. The evidence review was limited by the level of responses, so is unable to provide an accurate figure. There is a precedent in how to do this, but CIH is concerned that the timetable government has set itself doesn’t allow for this, but any shortfall in funding will mean a risk to people’s homes.
2) The funding needs reflect that actual costs of supported housing, and be flexible to respond to the changing and growing needs of the UK’s population
That includes people living longer with long term conditions and ageing with more complex conditions that, without the help provided in supported housing, will have huge knock-on costs for health and social care for example.
3) The long term funding, distribution and protection of the top up fund will be critical to sustain existing schemes, and ensure new development
It will need to address the risk of significant regional disparities in the provision of, and access to, supported housing by those who need it (caused by local and regional LHA differentials that do not reflect the real costs of supported housing provision and its associated facilities and services). We are also concerned the LHA caps and, since April 2016, freezes on increases will exacerbate that risk.
4) A different model is needed for crisis and emergency schemes
With UC in particular paid in arrears and with built-in delays, the proposed model does not fit the funding needs of crisis/ emergency schemes that provide very immediate short term support. And there should also be clear expectations for cross authority working and flexibility about criteria such as local connections, for these schemes to function effectively.
5) The English local authorities that hold and administer the fund will need support to develop strong and robust partnerships to ensure effective commissioning of future schemes, which understand the nature of and benefits from long term investment in supported housing
Many of the previous structures under Supporting People no longer exist, and the sector is concerned that supported housing is still not understood by many of the partners that government wants to see around the commissioning table. That support is likely to need to include funding, and that should not come out of the devolved top up fund itself, which must be ringfenced for provision of supported housing
6) Older people to date have been excluded from welfare changes and there is an argument that, until the full roll out of UC, they should continue to be so
This will allow time for proper debate about how housing costs should be covered for lower income older households – whether through pension credit or other mechanism, bearing in mind that they will have a fixed income with limited ability to meet increased costs.