Peter Aldous calls for supported housing review to start with “clean piece of paper”, work collaboratively and think long-term.

12th April 2016
Peter Aldous calls on the Government to take advantage of the supported housing review to make a clean start and ensure all aspects are considered; not just housing and benefits, but also physical and mental healthcare, and preparing vulnerable people for the workplace.

I will do my best, Mr Hollobone. I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown) for securing this debate, which comes at an opportune time, given that the Government’s review is taking place. I urge the Government, in carrying out the review, to start with a clean piece of paper. As we heard from the right hon. Gentleman, a lot of vulnerable people will be affected by the changes. I will not go through them in detail, but the feedback that I am receiving in Suffolk is that the recent changes to and restrictions on rental income for social housing providers and the changes in capital funding for adult social care are having a direct negative effect on capital investment available for supported housing schemes, leading to fewer and less innovative projects.

In moving forward with the review, my plea to the Government would be to break out of departmental silos. This is not just an issue for the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions; it is not just about housing and benefits. It is an issue for the Department of Health, as it concerns physical and mental healthcare, and it is a job for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, as it concerns preparing vulnerable people for the workplace.

It is also necessary to involve councils, which deliver these policies at the coalface, whether as housing authorities or social care providers. It is important to listen to housing associations and charities that are carrying out innovative projects that change people’s lives and that in the long term are sustainable financially. These include Give Us A Chance and the Papworth Trust, and—more locally in Suffolk—Saffron Housing Trust, Orwell Housing Association, Stonham Housing Association, and Access Community Trust, which has done great work in Lowestoft for many years.

As supported housing involves more than just housing and has wider benefits outside the walls of DWP and DCLG, we need to consider a wider range of funding sources from other Departments. Perhaps devolution provides a means of securing these funds. Also, councils should be encouraged to pursue an open-book approach to negotiations rather than fixed-price tendering. That way, tailored, bespoke and long-term solutions can be provided to meet specific local challenges and needs. In summary, let us start with a clean piece of paper, work collaboratively and think long-term.

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