Test 3 October, 2017

The future of supported housing: doing nothing is not an option

If recent experience is anything to go by, it might be understandable why the Government would want to leave social care well alone. But to do so would be a mistake. 716,000 vulnerable people live in supported housing and as such it is responsible for much of the delivery at the interface between social care and health.

The benefits of supported housing accrue to both those we help and wider public services – lessening the burden on the NHS, prisons and social care. Supported housing delivers fantastic taxpayer value.

At Home Group we are focusing on building homes, independence and aspirations. We currently have 1,842 homes in our build pipeline for frail elderly, clients with long-term learning disabilities or enduring and mental health issues.

To ensure these developments happen, government needs to provide certainty about Local Housing Allowance (LHA) reform, following the decision to cap rates. Funding formulas should be redesigned to take into consideration the costs associated with the supply of supported housing, and remove the perverse incentive of developing in high-value areas through the overwhelming focus on national differences of rent prices. The allocation of ‘top-up’ funds should reflect this unequal starting point. If we cannot confirm rent and service charges, the schemes will not be viable in the future model. Desperately needed specialist properties will simply not be built.

The debate around LHA has stopped us having a much needed and broader conversation around the need to move to new models of care. We want to work with Government in helping to innovate, and deliver these new care models.

For example, NHS announcements of accountable-care systems, which will bring together local NHS organisations, in partnership with social care services and voluntary sector, provide a great opportunity for supported housing to work with other services to deliver care.

A greater emphasis on how we can work in partnership with health offers the potential to alleviate pressure on hospitals through delayed discharges, admission avoidance, including clinical care within the services, all whilst retaining the core principle of alleviating homelessness.

There is much to recommend in the present proposals including more devolution bringing choice closer to local decision makers and the renewed emphasis on integration and value for money. Bringing supported housing into the centre of these conversations would further improve integration.

Government can drive integration for the most vulnerable by getting the care model right as well as the funding that sits around it. That change is difficult for some in our sector to adjust to. But if we really want to make a difference we have little choice but to change. Health needs new solutions and supported housing has a lot to offer. Our experience in providing supported housing services has shown that delivering on our own mission (and delivering the long-term sustainable changes needed) means that we must take complex and multiple types of intervention, and work over a long period of time.