Nacro welcomes both the principles of the proposals outlined in the consultation paper and the way in which the Minister has encouraged a wide dialogue about the importance of, and approaches to, securing housing and support for vulnerable people.
The removal of supported housing funding from the welfare system can be positive for service users, allowing them to access work on a flexible basis as their capacity allows, while also working with support providers to acquire the skills to manage a tenancy at the move on stage.
The uncertainty around the level of funding that providers will receive through the new grant arrangements remains a concern. National organisations like Nacro, working with some of the most vulnerable groups, are particularly exposed in the devolved arrangements and protective measures should be designed into the transitional plan.
Ring fences in local government have not always endured and providers will need more assurance about the intended long-term nature of the ring fence in order to commit to, and invest in, local services over the medium term.
In preparation for the new system, where income collection will not be required, there is a need to review the target operating model for supported housing providers to secure quality. Government should sponsor national work to explore alternative models, which will help providers, especially those with limited transformation investment capacity.
Supported housing delivered through private sector leased accommodation provides a flexible offer which can respond to changing demand patterns. However, over the short term, it can be more expensive than owned or new build supported housing. Government should support housing providers – many of which are charities – without the financial capacity to undertake development or to acquire housing to develop an owned portfolio through schemes such as social impact investment. Nacro currently works in partnership with Resonance to develop schemes for local authorities as part of their homelessness strategies. Such investment can fund accommodation availability for the medium term, which could be less than 10 years.
We welcome local strategic assessments but there is also a need for national assessments of needs where demand is not related to local connection. Particular groups that require a strategic approach to housing needs include young people and especially care leavers. We have already raised with the Ministry of Justice the need for a national strategic demand assessment for prison leavers and those who are in the criminal justice system. Local authorities should be required to have regard to such an assessment as part of the National Statement of Expectation for supported housing.
The proposals for supported housing address the crisis housing needs of vulnerable people. However, this is only part of the picture. There is an urgent need for wider consideration to be given to the housing needs of vulnerable people in the current housing crisis where accessibility to affordable, secure housing is a challenge for many, especially those who have some vulnerability.
This should be addressed as follows:
- Through the Governments Housing White Paper and its review of Social Housing
- Local authorities should address the whole life housing needs of people who are vulnerable in their local housing strategies.