'Still work to be done to understand proposed changes to supported housing.'
As we respond to two government consultations on supported housing, senior policy and practice officer Sarah Davis explores the implications of proposed changes.
We have now had the opportunity to respond to two government consultations – on a sheltered rent and on funding for short-term services – but what should these funding frameworks look like in the future?
CIH’s biggest concern is around the proposals for short-term services. The proposed definition for short-term services is too wide; there should be a distinction between crisis/ emergency accommodation, and schemes which help people to address issues and eventually move on into a more settled and long-term home.
The very short-term stays in emergency accommodation don’t fit with Universal Credit; people often move on before any assessment and payment can be made. A separate funding arrangement for these will provide more flexibility. But for some schemes, such as refuges for women fleeing domestic abuse, a national funding framework would provide greater assurance that schemes will continue (as Women’s Aid has argued).
It is very different for supported housing that helps people to get ready for independent living, where they can stay for up to two years. That timescale gives them time to apply for and receive universal credit/housing benefit. This type of supported housing is intended to help people to (re)gain skills such as managing their tenancy, budgeting and paying the rent – and being able to demonstrate to future landlords that they can do this well is vital to help them find and move on to a longer term home, whether social or private rent.
We have also argued that councils with statutory homeless duties are best placed to manage the local funding pot, now that it won’t include top up payments for older and disabled people in long-term supported schemes, and especially with the new duties that these councils have to prevent homelessness under the Homelessness Reduction Act. There should be the same requirement to involve counties and other statutory partners in assessing needs, drawing up plans and agreeing funding as proposed in the national statement of expectations, although this still needs greater clarity on how and when government will monitor and step in where local partners aren’t meeting needs.
So what about the proposed new 'sheltered rent'? How well will it work to make sure that the sector has confidence to build the new homes for our growing ageing population? That will all depend on how flexible the new allowance and any banding system will be, to cover the diversity in both sheltered and extra care provision, and there is still a need for more detail on this for the sector to model potential impacts.
There is a risk that in high-value markets, where the formula rent will be higher, there will be less scope to manage the service charge and any unexpected costs that can arise. A lot will depend on how much flexibility the regulator will have to manage this in discussion and agreement with providers.
And given the numbers of older people, with new and challenging aspirations of what they want from their housing, the regulated rent needs also to enable commissioners, providers and residents to shape changes in sheltered and extra care housing and the services it delivers in the future. There is still more work to be done on this to understand what the impact of the ‘sheltered rent’ will be in the long term.
Sarah Davis is senior policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing.
- Read the full CIH response to both consultations, which are available here