Funding Supported Housing

The HM’s Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons released a report this week on the ‘Through the Gate Resettlement Service for Short Term Prisoners’.   

The findings from their inspection make for depressing reading.  

The heralded intensive support and mentoring to reduce re-offending, enter education or employment and secure accommodation for those serving less than 12 months has not happened and the innovations included in Community Rehabilitation Companies bids have not materialised.

The report notes that although the Payment By Results (PbR) format incentivised the assessment and review of rehabilitation plans, it has not made any meaningful interventions, with some instances cited where a plan has been drawn up and reviewed on the same day! 

The inspectorates state that the sample population demonstrated: “concerning rates of reoffending and recall to prison and unsatisfactory initial outcomes for basic needs such as being in settled accommodation”.   Indeed of the 86 cases analysed not one single person has been supported into work.  In respect of mentors, the report state:  “in total seven women and three men had been put in touch with mentors. In only one case was the mentor commissioned via Through the Gate services”. 

The Work Programme, another PbR government initiative to help people into work, did very little to support those furthest away from the jobs market get into employment, or anywhere near it.  Indeed after the required two years on the programme, many people were still very much unemployed.

Both schemes have instituted the privatisation of welfare services and as a consequence shifted resources to the private sector and away from the public sector and voluntary providers. Many of these providers had established levels of expertise with very challenging clients over many years and worked in partnership with statutory services. Many had a history of funding their endeavours through a patchwork of government grants, contracts, fundraising, and social enterprise, and let’s face it, in many cases sheer personal commitment of staff and managers to making a difference in people’s lives and furthering social justice.

Supported Housing is now waiting for the latest funding proposals from government.  Following Conservative MP for Ashford, Damian Green’s statement in the House of Commons (15th September 2016) we do know that:

  • The 1% rent reduction will be implemented in 2017/18
  • The Local Howsing Allowance (LHA) cap will come into effect in 2019/20
  • The government will give local council’s a sum of money (yet to be determined) to top-up the shortfall between the LHA locally and the actual costs of providing supported housing.
  • This top up will be ring-fenced – during the transition period.
  • There has been talk of making the duty to provide supported housing a council statutory responsibility – a proposal given short-shrift by the chair of the Local Government Association.
  • The LHA shared accommodation rate will not be applied to single people under 35 – this is I suppose the main silver lining of an otherwise generally cloudy prospect.

This announcement raised many more questions than it answered including:

  • How much funding will go into the ‘top-up’ pot?
  • Is it the rumoured £4bn? £2bn?
  • Does the government have robust enough data on how much Housing Benefit is currently funding support?
  • What has happened to the Ipsos MORI research on supported housing costs?
  • How will the top-up funding be distributed across the country?
  • How will the additional revenue requirements of any new supported housing be funded?
  • What kind of transition period will there be, if any?
  • How exactly will supported housing be commissioned in future?

At least there are no plans (as far as we know) to implement a national PbR initiative and dismantle the supported housing sector through a large scale PbR programme, like the shining examples above.

Having hope and a positive outlook are a daily endeavour these days and so although there are many unanswered questions – and anyone who was employed in the supported housing sector prior to 2003 will, like me, have an awful sense of déjà vu with all this – I do know that whatever funding system is put in place, housing providers will rise to the challenge and find ways of working (with) the system so that we can continue to provide housing to people with support needs.  We’ve done it before and will do it again – if we choose to do so.  Indeed it is still a business choice that we can make, unlike the organisations that lost out when the Work Programme and Transforming Rehabilitation were tendered.

Liz Zacharias is a Consultant at Campbell Tickell. For more information or to discuss this article, please contact: liz@campbelltickell.com