Peter Aldous calls on the Government to ensure sustainable, long-term funding for supported housing as soon as possible

20th July 2016

Peter Aldous calls on the new team at the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure a sustainable, long-term funding strategy for the supported housing sector is in place as soon as possible as the prospect of the local housing allowance cap being applied to residents in supported housing is causing considerable unease and concern.

I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important debate, which follows on from the Adjournment debate I led last Tuesday. This debate provides an opportunity to re-emphasise, this time to the new team at the Department for Work and Pensions, the vital importance of putting the funding of supported housing on a sustainable long-term footing as soon as possible. It is absolutely essential that we do this, so as to not to let down a very vulnerable group of people, whether they are elderly, young, have a physical disability, have suffered domestic violence or face mental health challenges.

Credit is due to the Government for carrying out the first evidence-based review of the sector for 20 years and for consulting far and wide. I welcome the fact that they have accepted the need for a long-term sustainable solution and not just a short-term sticking plaster, and that they will work with and listen to stakeholders to develop a viable and sustainable funding regime. My intention is to be helpful and not hostile, but I have to say that the feedback I am receiving is that those involved in supported housing are very worried about the future. The whole sector is at present in limbo and there is a policy vacuum that must be filled.

The one-year exemption for supported housing, from the 1% rent reduction for social housing landlords and the one-year delay in applying local housing allowance caps to residents in supported housing, provides some breathing space, but the clock is ticking down to April 2017 when this one-year grace period expires. It is important to have new policies in place well before then, so as to remove worries about the viability of existing schemes and to act as a catalyst for attracting much-needed new investment into the sector. In the past three months, I have received representations, had meetings and visited a wide variety of organisations, national and local. They are all very concerned about the sector’s future. The depth and breadth of this worry emphasises the importance of putting in place a sustainable framework as soon as possible.

The prospect of the local housing allowance cap being applied to residents in supported housing after the one-year delay is causing considerable unease and concern. The cap undermines several pieces of legislation introduced in recent years including specified accommodation and the transforming care programme. In framing their proposals, it is absolutely vital that the Government have in mind the needs of those charities, housing associations and social investors, which are already active and doing great work in the sector, and those looking to get involved. There is an enormous amount of goodwill and capital waiting in the wings for a framework to be put in place, which will enable these social entrepreneurs to step up to the plate and carry out projects that will bring great benefits to many.

I shall be voting with the Government this afternoon, as I believe that it is fair to give the new team a chance to come up with a just and sustainable long-term strategy. I sense from what the Secretary of State has said that there is a real determination and desire to do that. There is a lot of work for them to do, but a lot of good ideas have been put forward, including by the National Housing Federation. It has made proposals, as has the Home Group. The latter has correctly identified the need for a new funding mechanism to be designed in such a way that it can be run by devolved Administrations.

I urge the Government to consider these proposals very, very carefully. I look forward to hearing from the Secretary of State when he returns to the Dispatch Box in the autumn with his recommendations for the Chamber to consider and debate. It is vital that we get this right. We owe it to a very vulnerable group of people.

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