PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP leads committee urging government to look again at supported housing funding plans
City MP Richard Graham has co-chaired an influential joint committee of the Work and Pensions and Communities and Local Government Select Committees as they urge the government to look again at plans for supported housing funding to ensure the sector is adequately supported and provision is boosted in a report published today.
Richard Graham MP, Co-Chair of the inquiry and member of the Work and Pensions Committee, said: “Supported housing is deeply valued by those who live in it and contributes enormously to their independence and wellbeing. We support the Government’s aims to reform funding for this vital sector to ensure quality and value for money, protect and boost supply, and provide greater local control.
“But we are concerned that the proposals, as they stand, are unlikely to achieve these objectives. Our recommendations seek to improve the Government’s plans and ensure it delivers on our common goal of a sustainable, long-term funding solution for supported housing.
The Committees argue that a new Supported Housing Allowance, banded to reflect the actual cost of provision in the sector, should be introduced instead of the current Local Housing Allowance rate. The Committees note concerns that the Government’s proposed reform will damage provision in parts of the country and could lead to a serious shortfall in the availability of supported housing.
The Committees recommend grants to local authorities, which can commission accommodation and pay providers.
The report also calls a separate funding system for women’s refuges and urges the Government to work with Women’s Aid and providers to devise it. The Committee says it is essential that refuges are able to operate as a national network, unrestrained by local admissions restrictions.
The Committee found that the cost of provision is largely consistent across the country. Unless funding reflects this consistency the Committees are also concerned that providers will be put off investing in particular areas, creating a disparity between the supply of homes and services across the country.
The Committees argue that a Supported Housing Allowance would ensure tenants only require top-funding in exceptional circumstances. The Allowance would be calculated according to a formula made up of a fixed amount for provision, which is consistent between areas, and a smaller variable amount that reflect differences in land costs.
Central funding of the top-up should be guaranteed for at least the duration of the next Parliament to provide greater certainty. Funding levels should be regularly reviewed to ensure the top-up fund keeps pace with increases in the cost of provision and changes in local demand.
Helen Hayes MP, Co-Chair of the inquiry and member of the Communities and Local Government Committee, said: “Ministers must intervene immediately by scrapping the proposed Local Housing Allowance reform. The sector needs a far more suitable funding system that recognises the consistent cost of provision across the country and provides long term reliability.
“Supported housing caters for an incredibly diverse range of people, from long-term sheltered accommodation for older people to short-term emergency housing for those who have recently become homeless or are fleeing domestic abuse. The Government is right to consider alternative funding for emergency accommodation and we urge Ministers to also recognise the unique challenges of refuges with a distinct funding model.”
Other findings, recommendations and conclusions include:
- Benefit restrictions that may be justified in the private rented sector should not be applied to those looking to leave supported housing so as to ensure people are not discouraged from do so.
- The Government should ensure providers are aware that supported housing tenants claiming Universal Credit will not be worse off if they seek employment. A job should be seen as an important milestone towards independence and self-sufficiency.
- The Government should establish a set of national standards to enable monitoring of the quality of provision in all supported housing in England and Wales, with a specific emphasis on improving the quality of life that tenants experience
700,000 people live in supported housing in the UK, from older people and those with learning and physical difficulties, to survivors of domestic violence.
The Government acknowledges that supported housing saves in the region of £3.5 billion per year, through lower costs for the NHS, social care and criminal justice systems.
The system is facing considerable demand, with a reported 17,000 shortfall in supported housing places; a figure that could double within the next three years without Government intervention.