Government U-Turn provides welcome boost to health & social care and housing sectors

There was welcome news for a number of providers across both the social housing and social care sectors recently as Theresa May announced plans to scrap changes to benefits for people living in social housing.

The controversial plans, for all social housing tenants to have their housing benefit capped in line with the private rented sector, were set to affect thousands of elderly and vulnerable people in supported accommodation.

This turnaround was seen as a major win both for Labour and for the charities that had warned that the proposed cap, which was due to be introduced in April 2019, would have a particular impact on supported accommodation. They highlighted that uncertainty over future funding would be likely to deter housing associations from building housing for vulnerable people, who rely on the support to stay out of hospital or residential care, applying further pressure to the already strained health & social care sectors.

The government waited just a matter of days to publish a new model of how it plans to support and sustain supported housing. In the proposed model, it was acknowledged that local areas don’t have sufficient control or oversight of provision, with it ‘not always possible’ to ensure value for money for tenants or the taxpayer.

The government says its ‘fit for the future’ funding model addressed concerns raised by the social housing sector and other key stakeholders, with sheltered housing and extra care continuing to be funded in the welfare system.

Some key features from the proposed new model:

  • A ‘Sheltered Rent’ scheme from April 2020.
  • Short-term supported housing having a new ring-fenced grant available to councils in England.
  • The amount of short term supported housing grant funding set on the basis of current projections of future need – in Wales and Scotland, an equivalent amount will be provided for those administrations to decide on allocation.
  • Improved local planning for supported housing and commissioning across service areas with proposals for a National Statement of Expectation to underpin the new funding regime.

As with many working with the social care and housing sector, we welcomed the announcement this week. Following a period of uncertainty, the new proposals will give many providers and more importantly, the vulnerable people who need this housing, some reassurance. We have already seen a number of our clients and contacts kicking projects into action across the UK on the back of this news, which in turn will provide vital housing to vulnerable service users that in some cases, are trapped in the wrong type of service that can’t properly meet their needs or offer them the combination of support and independence that will enable them to fulfil their potential.