Skip to main content

Supported Housing: Funding

Volume 814: debated on Tuesday 14 September 2021


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure that long-term, ring-fenced funding is available for supported housing.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. I declare my interest as chair of the National Housing Federation.

My Lords, funding is devolved to local authorities through the local government settlement; they are best placed to make decisions on local services. We continue to work with the sector to address issues of supply and quality. The plan for health and social care announced last week included a commitment that the Government will invest in supported housing, as well as exploring other innovative housing solutions to support more people to live independently at home.

My Lords, supported housing plays a transformational role in maintaining independence for those with extra care needs, as well as people rebuilding their lives after street homelessness or domestic abuse. It was never more critical than during the pandemic and needs to be an integral part of our national recovery. Does the Minister recognise the enormous contribution of supported housing? Does he recall the £1.6 billion of ring-fenced funding, which sustained the provision of housing-related support, and does he believe that it needs to be reinstated in the upcoming CSR if we want to avoid a crisis for swathes of the most vulnerable people in our country?

My Lords, as I set out in my original Answer, the focus has been away from ring-fencing of funding, but of the £12 billion that has been provided during this pandemic for local councils to deal with the pressures, £6 billion was non-ring-fenced, and a lot of that money can be prioritised for the issues around housing-related support services to ensure that the quality of the services can be continued.

My Lords, there is genuine concern among councils that there is abuse of the exempt accommodation status, which grants housing run by a supported housing provider additional housing benefit. Does the Minister agree that, to do right by the majority of good providers, more must be done to increase the transparency of such accommodation costs and to give councils greater flexibilities and powers to act against those who are failing their most vulnerable tenants? Does he have any feedback from the supported housing pilots that were working on this important issue?

The noble Baroness is right: we are concerned about quality issues, and that is why we carried out some pilots in Birmingham, Blackburn, Darwen, Hull, Bristol and Blackpool. We do not have the results from those pilots, but that is why we invested £5.4 million—to ensure that there is no drop in quality.

My Lords, following the success of the Everyone In campaign, which protected rough sleepers from Covid, Housing First is the most cost-effective supported housing solution, to stop those most at risk from returning to the streets. It is estimated that 16,000 places are required, but so far the Government have pledged funding for only 2,000. Can my noble friend hold out any prospect of a more generous response?

My noble friend knows that we are committed, in our latest manifesto, to expanding Housing First. The findings of our evaluation, together with our experiences from the pilots, will help to inform next steps.

My Lords, a recent report for Birmingham City Council found that an increasing number of landlords claiming to provide social housing are not providing adequate support for tenants or residents. Housing charity Crisis has previously called for tighter regulation to prevent this exploitation. Do the Government have any plans to introduce any such legislation? If not, will the Minister explore the need to do so?

My Lords, we are aware of the issues in Birmingham. That is one of the reasons why we carried out those pilots, which will inform future policy in this area. It is important that we deal with the small examples where standards are simply unacceptable.

My Lords, as well as supported housing for disabled people, more wheelchair-accessible housing is greatly needed. What action will the Government take to ensure that it is provided?

My Lords, we are investing a considerable amount—up to 10% is the target—of the £11.5 billion affordable housing scheme in the supply of supported housing. Specifically, the Government have invested more than £4 billion through the disabled facilities grant, which has funded adaptations in almost 450,000 homes.

My Lords, in his initial Answer the Minister said that the Government were investigating or exploring innovative housing solutions. How confident is he that such innovative housing solutions will deal with need in the supported housing area and help to underpin social justice?

We are engaging very closely with stakeholders, such as the National Housing Federation and others, to ensure that we get this right. We will then develop the detail and will announce more information in the forthcoming White Paper on adult social care.

I declare my interest as laid out in the register. The Resolution Foundation has said that the Chancellor’s planned cuts in universal credit, along with other major decisions to be made in the autumn,

“are likely to shape the living standards of millions of families for years to come.”

Have the Government made an assessment of the impact of the Chancellor’s universal credit proposals on levels of need for supported housing?

My Lords, it is important to recognise that that was always going to be a temporary uplift in universal credit. We also need to recognise the current amount of money that goes into welfare costs for supported housing. Way back in 2015, the estimate was £3.5 billion, and the sum will almost certainly have risen since that time, when it was last measured. That goes some way to ensuring that there is support for people in supported housing.

Does the Minister agree with one of the recommendations of the recent report by the National Housing Federation on supported housing, which says that local authorities should be required to

“develop a clear strategic understanding of the need for supported housing in their area, and a plan setting out the types of housing required, for whom, when and where”?

Will his department help local authorities to implement this measure?

My Lords, it is an entirely sensible recommendation that it is down to local authorities to base their plans on local needs. That is one of the reasons why we have moved away from specific ring-fenced funding—and of course, the Government can provide support for councils in that endeavour.

My Lords, as a former councillor, I agree wholeheartedly with my noble friend Lady Warwick in calling for ring-fencing for supported housing, particularly for people with disabilities, those who are recovering from mental health issues and those who have come out of prison. Those people appear to be suffering significant neglect in services, with a deficit of essential care which breaches our commitment and ambition for equality and social justice. Will the Minister meet me to discuss some recent supported housing experience that highlights a worrying lack of quality provision, which severely impairs rehabilitation, recovery and the dignity of individuals?

My Lords, I am always happy to meet the noble Baroness, but I have to say that although there are some poor examples of supported housing—I am happy to learn about and understand that issue, and I will bring in my relevant ministerial colleagues in the department as well—there are also some tremendous examples of supported housing, in particular with the provision of extra care in sheltered housing, which is providing great accommodation for the elderly in our society.