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Call for exemption to protect vulnerable

PlaceShapers have warned that the homes of up to 440,000 vulnerable people could be at risk through cuts to social housing rents announced in the Summer Budget and the future capping of HB at local housing allowance (LHA) levels announced in last month’s Spending Review.

Both represent a major threat to the financial viability of specialist housing with extra care for the frail elderly, dementia care schemes, support schemes for young people leaving care, for women fleeing domestic violence, for those recovering from alcohol and substance misuse, for those with mental health issues and for those with physical and / or learning disabilities. 

PlaceShapers are calling for all supported housing schemes to be exempt from the Government’s changes to social housing rent levels. Rents in such schemes provide the income to cover the intensive housing management that goes alongside providing a home and such charges are very often covered by HB for people who are unable to work.

Without this exemption, or a guarantee of an alternative funding stream, many schemes will close with huge personal and financial implications. This surely cannot be the Government’s intention. 

Housing associations provide specialist supported housing for around 132,000 vulnerable people and a further 312,000 homes for older persons. The support provided in these schemes provides substantial savings to the public purse - most recently estimated at in excess of £600m a year. A quick survey of six supported housing providers amongst PlaceShapers’ membership who between them provide supported housing to 3,343 people, suggests income losses from 2018 averaging £56 per unit per week as a result of the LHA cap alone with an annual loss between them of nearly £10m (£9,803,993). If replicated across the sector this suggests a total loss of approaching £400m for the funding of supported housing schemes alone with further potentially huge losses if homes for older persons are included too.

Housing associations would of course do everything possible to mitigate such losses by making savings elsewhere in their business, although this would challenge still further their ability to build new homes of all tenures, including new supported housing schemes. However, it is already clear that such losses would lead to scheme closures on a massive and unprecedented scale with planning for this starting as early as next year given the time it takes to close down a service. That would be a tragedy at a human level and the knock-on impact on other services such as health and social care would be substantial. This economic argument has not been fully understood and with the homes of up to 440,000 vulnerable people at risk, including significant numbers of pensioners, many MPs would be extremely concerned about the additional pressures that could arise locally if supported housing schemes are not protected from these changes.

Charlotte Norman, PlaceShapers Board Member and Chief Executive of St Vincent’s Housing Association in Manchester said: “These changes in housing benefit entitlement look like having a more detrimental impact than any other recent housing and welfare announcement. Supported housing provision fits clearly with our vision and purpose and makes a huge difference in communities up and down the country. Over 440,000 vulnerable people live in schemes provided by housing associations and their homes are now at risk. The current response that DHP will cover the gaps is clearly nonsense and unworkable.  We cannot believe that Government understands the consequences of these changes and the vast extra costs that would fall to the public purse as a result of scheme closures. Nothing short of exemption for all such housing will be adequate and we very much hope that common sense will prevail.”

To read the full response, click here.

Charlie Norman

PlaceShapers Board member Charlotte Norman

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