Earlier this month, ministers announced the scrapping of proposed changes to the provision of ‘supported housing’, in a move that has been welcomed by many in the homelessness sector following years of uncertainty and months of lobbying.
In the press release on 9th August, Housing Minister Kit Malthouse MP, said: ‘Protection of the most vulnerable has always been our primary concern, and following our consultation, the case for keeping supported housing in the welfare system became clear.’ Justin Tomlinson, Minister for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance, wrote; ‘We are committed to ensuring that vulnerable people have access to the supported housing they need to live safely and independently… As a result we will continue to pay housing benefit for all supported housing –making sure safe homes are provided for those that need it most.’
What’s the background to this change?
Although the debate about the future of supported housing has been ongoing for several years, it was last October that planned changes were announced to the way that short term (defined as up to two years) supported housing would be funded, moving from housing benefit to a ring-fenced pot.
We responded to the consultation that followed this announcement and, alongside others, flagged our concerns. The biggest worry articulated by our members- who primarily provide this service to people who have been granted refugee status- was around these controversial changes to funding. It was felt that such a move could easily exclude specialist services that would not have the resource to manage a commissioned contract and as such, would have the overall effect of reducing provision and increasing risks of homelessness amongst vulnerable groups including refugees. Read our submission in full here.
Since the start of the year, we have been encouraging members to write to local decision makers to highlight the benefits of supported housing for the groups they support and raise concerns at the highest possible levels. Our thanks to all who have been able to do this.
Following the announcement this month, NACCOM’s National Director Hazel Williams writes; ‘We welcome the decision to scrap these drastic and potentially damaging changes. In our recent report, ‘Mind The Gap’, we called for ministers to put the needs of vulnerable people front and centre of any policies, so it is encouraging to see their commitment to do just that. Newly recognised refugees frequently face challenges to accessing secure accommodation after receiving their papers. Early intervention to prevent crises and promote integration is critical, and supported housing provides a sustainable model to do this. We hope the government will continue to listen to stakeholders in their plans for the future’.