by Bethan Hall | 27 September 2016
It is common knowledge that the social housing sector is one of many major challenges in the UK’s current economic climate. From the one percent rent cuts to the major changes in welfare reforms, every aspect of social housing has faced challenges over the past few years and it doesn’t seem set to change anytime soon.
Furthermore, in the wake of Brexit, social landlords are set to face a new wave of financial challenges. The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has recently proposed changes to the sales market and the availability of finance, which are just a couple of the potential repercussions.
Implications for supported housing
Within the supported housing sector specifically there has been a degree of uncertainty over future funding, with the government refusing to comment further until early autumn.
Currently we are hearing about talks of a government proposal cap on housing benefits for social tenants in line with Local Housing Allowance (LHA) which will only further exacerbate the problem, forcing many supported housing providers to potentially shut down schemes. Currently, the LHA cap is set to be applied to supported housing tenancies in April 2018.
Matt Ginn a Project Lead within the supported housing division stated funding is one of the biggest challenges they currently face as a sector. For his specific service this has resulted in dramatic staffing cuts, losing four staff in the past year alone. With a 24/7 service to run, this has had dramatic repercussions, not only for the team, but also the service they provide. As a result the service is running with fewer staff, creating an increased workload for fewer members of the team and therefore less support for the customers. The most worrisome thing is not knowing if this will continue long-term.
Ginn believes the current financial difficulty social housing providers are facing is causing greater emphasis to be placed on sourcing quality staff who are willing to do more, and are being forced to become less reliant on agency cover.
He commented; “The staff have become the asset and we need to make sure we retain this.”
Certainly from a recruiter perspective, the specialist housing division at Sellick Partnership often comes across this obstacle; social housing providers simply do not have the funding they once did to recruit agency staff, with many turning to internal means of resourcing.
It is unlikely that we are about to see a return of significant grant funding for social housing any time soon, thus forcing providers to face tough strategic decisions for the future. Housing associations and councils alike are undoubtedly being pulled in different directions. In increasing financial difficulty, steps must be taken to balance the need between commercial imperative and social purpose.