More than 700,000 people in the UK benefit from the support and supervision provided within the supported housing sector. The vast majority of provision is sheltered accommodation for older people, but this sector also includes housing for people with learning and physical disabilities, individuals at risk of homelessness, refuges for women and children at risk of domestic violence, and many other client groups. During our inquiry, we heard directly from supported housing residents, who told us how much they valued the independence and improved quality of life afforded to them by this provision.
In September 2016, the Government announced proposals for a new funding model for supported housing, which would operate from April 2019. Under the new model, core rent and service charges would be funded through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit up to the level of the applicable Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate. For costs above the LHA rate, the Government would devolve ring-fenced top-up funding for disbursement by local authorities.
The supported housing proposals sit within the remit of both the Communities and Local Government Committee and the Work and Pensions Committee. In order to respond to the Government’s proposals, we launched a joint inquiry to scrutinise the Government’s funding proposals and recommend how they might be improved.
We support the Government in seeking to find a long-term, sustainable funding mechanism that ensures quality, provides value for money, and which protects and boosts the supply of supported housing. But we share the concerns expressed across the sector that the funding proposals, as they stand, are unlikely to achieve these objectives. In particular, we frequently heard that the LHA rate was an inappropriate starting point for a new funding mechanism for supported housing.
Although recommendations for alternative structures are less forthcoming, we propose the Government introduces a Supported Housing Allowance, banded to reflect the diversity of provision in the sector and sufficient to ensure supported housing tenants will only require recourse to top-up funding in exceptional circumstances. We further recommend that emergency accommodation is funded through a locally administered grant system, while refuges—which operate as a national network—should have a separate funding mechanism that reflects their unique role.
Our recommendations seek to complement the Government’s proposals, and to enable delivery of our common goal of a sustainable, long-term funding solution for supported housing that boosts the provision of high quality homes, while providing greater local control over spending and value for money.
28 April 2017