by Claire Harrison | 17 October 2016
Supported housing holds an important role in providing support to vulnerable people in their own homes and the wider community. Over the years supported housing has provided a positive impact on mental and physical health, as well as housing stability and the decrease need for homeless shelters and other temporary accommodation.
The role of those providing supported housing to vulnerable tenants hasn’t been easy in recent years. Changes to funding and legislation has put a halt to realising their vision for the future. Many organisations now need to look at how these changes will ultimately impact the services they provide and how those changes will shape their long-term future.
The Local Housing Allowance (LHA) cap along with the one percent rent decrease, which will affect supported housing in the future, means that social housing providers are at risk of being unable to provide viable housing to vulnerable people. They are now forced to look at leasing options from private landlords which only provides a short-term solution at a lower quality of housing and at an increased cost.
This concern for the long-term viability of the service provided has forced some organisations to consider merging with other housing providers. Greater financial pressures means that some organisations simply cannot survive on their own.
However, it has recently been announced that a new funding model for supported living has been agreed which will ensure that supported housing is protected from the LHA cap.
Supported housing providers working with homeless people and those with mental illnesses, among others, had warned that the LHA cap could mean widespread closures of hostels and shelters, forcing thousands of people on to the streets. Deferring the cap to 2019 – 2020 gives organisations the opportunity to stabilise and identify cost efficiencies across the business in advance. However, this still leaves service provides with doubts about the future.
Helen Gore, Head of Supported Housing at Riverside Care and Support says; “Over the next four years we have to make a saving of £30m. As an organisation we have already started to streamline our processes to ensure we are financially robust when these changes do take hold.”
However, Helen echo’s the concerns of many other associations; “the uncertainty of the future of funding within supported housing could force some services into closure and force many new developments to stall. In a time when homelessness is increasing this does not put the needs of the service users at the forefront of the issue and ultimately they are the ones with the most to lose”.
Along with the service providers, the service users are left in a state of limbo, causing anxiety and pressure to a group of people who are already vulnerable. Not being able to provide a long-term solution to these service users ultimately will see those most vulnerable being at the greatest risk. At a time when supported services are needed more than ever, with the elderly living longer and a greater need to reduce pressure on NHS services, this is costly for all.
So what is the answer? There is no quick fix. It is imperative that the government continue to listen to the housing associations and providers at the front of this issue. Currently the government have listened to providers’ concerns and it is encouraging that changes are being made. However, it is a long road ahead; a solution needs to be found that gives those providers the direction and long-term assurance that will enable them to realise the ambitions for the future of their services allowing confidence to be regained by service users.
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