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House of Commons Hansard
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Supported Housing
12 July 2016
Volume 613

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(George Hollingbery.)

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I am pleased to have secured this debate in the week before the start of the summer recess. While the Government are carrying out a review of supported housing, it is important both to obtain a progress report from the Minister as to how it is going and to re-emphasise the vital importance of putting the funding of supported housing on a sustainable long-term footing. It is absolutely essential that we do this, so as 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. I seek to be helpful and not hostile, but those involved in the sector are very worried about the future, and it is vital that the Government know their concerns and take them fully into account in producing their proposals, which I hope will be available shortly.

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 provide some breathing space, but the clock is ticking down to 2017, when this one-year grace period expires. It is important to have new policies in place well before then, so as not only to remove worries about the viability of existing schemes but to act as a catalyst for attracting much needed new investment in the sector.

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I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate and raising important issues about the barriers to good care that a lack of the right supported housing can lead to for people with learning disabilities and mental illness. Does he agree that on a daily basis many mental health wards struggle to find suitable step-down and community housing for patients who badly need it because, as he is outlining, this issue has not been properly gripped?

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I thank my hon. Friend and Suffolk neighbour for his intervention. Yes, I agree that we need to tackle this issue very quickly.

This week, I joined the National Housing Federation’s Starts at Home campaign, which aims to highlight the unique benefits of supported housing and to show why it is so important to individuals and society. It seeks to secure a commitment from the Government to ensure that everyone can have a home that meets their unique needs. Over the past three months, I have received representations from, had meetings with and visited a wide variety of organisations, national and local, all concerned about the sector’s future. As well as the National Housing Federation, these include the Home Group, Homeless Link, the Local Government Association, Suffolk County Council, the Salvation Army, Papworth Trust and Give us a Chance, which, as well as providing accommodation, helps young people into work and sustainable employment.

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Is the hon. Gentleman also aware of the Cambridge housing group providing sheltered housing in my constituency? It warns that the changes to the housing cap could cost it up to £500,000 a year and plunge four of its key schemes in the city into financial chaos.

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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that issue. I come across many such cases, and I shall produce some statistics to confirm it. It is very important to have specific case studies on the ground that emphasise the serious nature of the problem we face.

There are also local providers in Suffolk and in my own constituency, such as Access Community Trust, Stonham, Orwell housing association and the Professional Deputy Service, that provide advice and support to vulnerable dependent people. There are charities and social investors either already active in the sector or wanting to get involved, such as Emmaus, Cheyne’s Social Property Impact Fund and HB Villages. The depth and breadth of interest and concern emphasise the importance of putting in place a sustainable framework for the future funding of supported housing and the need to do so quickly.

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I echo the welcome of my hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter) for this debate. Is not “alacrity” the key word, in that 9,270 units—80% of all pipeline development in specialist housing—are under threat? Welcome though the review is, what we need is a quick decision from the Government to put on a firmer footing the long-term sustainable funding of specialist housing.

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I thank my hon. Friend that intervention. He is right that we are getting to a stage when speed is very much of the essence.

The case for supported housing is compelling. There is a rising demand for care and support owing to an ageing population and increased levels of mental health and learning disabilities. As the National Housing Federation has pointed out, supported housing enables older people to retain their independence, and young people to live securely and in some cases to get their lives back on track; it ensures that victims of domestic violence are able to find emergency refuge and to stabilise their lives; it helps homeless people with complex and multiple needs to make the transition from living on the street to a settled home with education, training or employment; and it ensures that people with mental health needs can stabilise their lives and live more independently.

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I want to say to the Minister that my hon. Friend has hit the nub of the problem. Such housing units have all these additional costs, which raises the issue of whether introducing this cap is at all appropriate for supported housing. Perhaps the Government should take stock and think again about what exactly is done in this sector.

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I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, and I shall come on to make that very point.

The National Housing Federation has also pointed out that ex-servicemen and women are able to find a stable home, and this includes those with mental health and physical disability needs; and that people with learning disabilities are able to maximise their independence and to exercise choice and control over their lives. It should also be pointed out that investment in supported housing can provide an alternative to more expensive residential care settings.

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I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate on a very important subject. Does he acknowledge that the Homes and Communities Agency has identified savings to the taxpayer of £640 million through investment in supported housing?

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Order. I did not interrupt while the hon. Gentleman was in full flow, but I must point out that by very long-standing convention, we cannot have interventions from Opposition Front-Bench Members in Adjournment debates. It looks as though the hon. Gentleman was not aware of that convention, but he is now.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker. I, too, am now aware of that convention, although the hon. Gentleman’s point was a good one.

The development of new supported housing schemes using innovative models is of vital strategic importance to councils providing adult social care services. It will help them meet the care and support needs of an ageing population, making the best use of limited budgets. Such models provide people with greater independence, meet the support needs of individuals and are more cost-effective than residential provision.

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I apologise for missing the first few words of my hon. Friend’s speech. He is making a strong case.

Worcestershire County Council, which has contacted me, fears that some of the schemes on which it is working with Fortis Living and the Rooftop Housing Group may be under threat as a result of this application of the cap. The council wanted me to ensure that my hon. Friend expressed those concerns this evening.

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The position in Suffolk is the same as the position in Worcestershire.

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The hon. Gentleman has been very generous in giving way, and he is making a powerful speech. Insecurity about funding, and the funding model, makes it difficult for a number of housing associations, including Stonham, to develop new products and secure the investment that they need in order to help people to maintain their independence in supported housing in a cost-effective way. Is that not the nub of the problem?

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The hon. Lady is right. We are experiencing a period of limbo and uncertainty in which nothing is happening, and schemes that are desperately needed are not being developed.

Research shows that when a person with learning disabilities moves from residential care to supported living, about £185 per week can be saved. If that is extrapolated nationally, it means a saving of at least £72 million per annum for social care commissioning budgets. However, specialised supported housing has other advantages in comparison with residential care. In a care home, the minimum standard for an individual room is 12 square metres, whereas in an apartment in specialised supported housing it is about 50 square metres. In a care home, support is organised to meet the demands of group living, whereas in specialised supported housing it is tailored to meet the needs of the individual.

The Homes and Communities Agency has found that supported housing provision has a net positive benefit of £640 million for UK taxpayers. At present there is a shortage of 15,640 places, or 14% of supply, and if the current trends continue, the shortfall will double by 2019-20. Furthermore, there are 30,000 people in the UK with learning difficulties who are over 70 and still living with their parents. According to research conducted by Papworth Trust, 1.8 million people require some form of accessible housing, and the number is growing year on year. When disabled people are living in accessible homes that meet their needs, their quality of life is dramatically enhanced, and their job prospects also benefit.

The message is clear: there is a compelling case for supported housing, demand for which is increasing year by year. If we do not put its funding on a secure, sustainable long-term footing, a significant proportion of existing supported housing schemes will be forced to close, which will leave many vulnerable and disadvantaged people with nowhere to live. Moreover, the much needed new accommodation will not be built.

If we are to find a sustainable long-term solution to the problem of funding for supported housing, it is necessary to think outside the narrow departmental confines of the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions. It is necessary to break out of the silos, and to think holistically. Supported housing is not just a matter for the DCLG and the DWP, because it is not just about housing and benefits. It is a case for the Department of Health, as it concerns physical and mental healthcare. It is a job for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, as it concerns the preparation of vulnerable people for the workplace. It is a case for councils, whether it involves housing authorities or social care providers. It is of interest to housing associations, charities and social investors who are keen to pursue innovative projects that would change people’s lives. Achieving good supported housing requires a focused partnership between housing authorities, housing associations, care and support providers, and councils delivering social care.

What all that means is that supported housing is not just about housing. Because it delivers benefits far beyond the walls of the DWP and the DCLG, it is appropriate to consider securing funding from a wide range of potential sources, including other Departments. In the fullness of time, devolved government may also have a role to play.

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My hon. Friend is making a typically powerful speech. Does he agree that each year we have delayed discharge crises across acute hospital trusts in England, and were we to think long term about how we fund supported housing, it could pay for itself in terms of a reduction in the cost to the taxpayer of these crises, which happen every winter?

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My hon. Friend makes a good point. If we raise our eyes and think long term, instead of just short term, savings will be produced that can deliver the far better, high-quality supported housing we need.

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Does my hon. Friend agree that the reality on the ground is that the lack of suitable supported housing is leading to hospitals and mental health wards having to discharge people either on to the streets in some cases, which is most undesirable as they will include some very vulnerable people, or into other very unsuitable housing situations? This issue needs to be addressed, and conversations need to be had with the Department of Health to make that happen.

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I agree. It is important not to look at a specific type of housing in silos, because all types of housing are interrelated: we cause a problem in one, and it has a negative spin-off effect in another.

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 in the sector. With housing benefit set to be abolished as part of the roll-out of universal credit, it is appropriate for the Government to review the future funding of supported housing. However, feedback from the National Housing Federation reveals that the threat of a crude LHA cap is having a detrimental effect.

Some 24% of supported housing providers have told the NHF that all their supported and sheltered housing units are at risk of becoming unviable and of closing. It is estimated that 156,000 units of existing supported and sheltered housing would become unviable and at risk of closure; that is 41% of all existing schemes. There would also be an impact on future development, with an estimated 9,270 units in the pipeline not being developed. That represents 80% of the total existing development pipeline and includes more than 8,000 specialist homes for older people and people with disabilities which were announced in last year’s comprehensive spending review.

The cap undermines several pieces of legislation introduced by the last Government. The introduction of specified accommodation in 2014 establishes a precedent of treating supported housing differently from other forms of social housing. In addition to being eligible for higher rates of housing benefit, specified accommodation has been removed from the current universal credit arrangements, and it is also exempt from the benefit cap. Failure to recognise this unique status when applying the cap is not only inconsistent with previous policy, but it also places at severe risk the step Government have already taken to protect housing for the most disadvantaged. It also threatens one of the Government’s own flagship policies, the transforming care programme, which relies on supported accommodation being available in the community.

In 2014 a rental agreement was approved by the Homes and Communities Agency that allowed registered social landlords to increase their rents by inflation plus 1% annually for the next 10 years. The purpose of the agreement was to provide RSLs with a stable base from which to invest in their services, including the provision of new supported housing. By capping social rents, the Government have removed this stability, making it virtually impossible for providers of supported housing to plan future developments. For those who have already invested in new schemes, the cap will also jeopardise their ability to meet the existing financial returns of current investments.

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The hon. Gentleman is making a powerful and learned speech. People often get things wrong in debates on housing benefit. I have completed many Government documents to set up new housing schemes specifically for victims of domestic violence. The Government have signed off on funding for such projects based on the current housing benefit rates, and they are now putting their own work in jeopardy.

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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that intervention, which provides a clear illustration of the point that I am making.

Inside Housing’s snap survey found that 95% of supported housing providers will be forced to wind up some or all of their schemes. HB Villages wants to invest in new developments. It requires no public grant, but the investment can only be made if returns from future rents are protected through continued rent exemption. I fully appreciate that Lord Freud’s review must be comprehensive and based on as much evidence as possible. It will also be important not to rush it, if we are to arrive at a sustainable long-term funding solution. However, an early assurance from the Government—perhaps from the Minister tonight—that the cap will not apply to supported housing will remove the uncertainty that currently hangs over the sector.

In framing their proposals for the funding of supported housing, it is vital that the Government have in mind the needs of those charities, housing associations and social investors already active and doing great work in the sector as well as those looking to get involved. There is an enormous amount of goodwill and capital waiting in the wings. If the right framework is put in place, those organisations, charities and investors will step up to the plate and carry out projects. In doing so, they will bring significant benefits to the lives of many.

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Is the hon. Gentleman aware that women’s refuge accommodation in Scotland is often owned by local authorities or housing associations? Scottish Women’s Aid estimates that a one-bedroom flat in a city such as Glasgow would incur a £7,100 a year loss. Does he agree that if the policy on the cap is not changed, those services will become unsustainable?

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I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention. This evening’s interventions started off with an East Anglian flavour, but they have now widened to cover the whole country. This is very much a national crisis. Going back to East Anglia, however, a housing association active in Suffolk has emphasised to me the importance of a long-term plan. It says that it cannot run a business with a 10-year outlook on the back of local authority annual discretionary housing payments.

An organisation I would like briefly to mention is Emmaus. It was set up in the UK 25 years ago just outside Cambridge by Selwyn Image. It now has 28 communities across the UK supporting more than 700 vulnerable people, with the objective of increasing that figure to 1,000 by 2020. It needs the seedcorn of a stable funding regime in order to set up new communities such as All Hallows at Ditchingham, which is near Bungay in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr Bacon) but which also serves my constituency and several others in the surrounding area. Ultimately, with the right initial support, Emmaus communities are self-funding. Research shows that the social return on investment in its communities, using the Treasury’s recommended discount rate of 3.5%, is £11 for every £1 invested. In addition, the present value of savings to the state is nearly £6 million per annum for a contribution of just over £2.7 million in housing benefit.

Providing the right long-term investment framework will also encourage the provision in new developments of adaptive technologies, which not only enhance residents’ lives but can also produce significant cost savings for local commissioning councils, releasing funds for investment elsewhere. Research by HB Villages shows that the introduction of adaptive technologies can produce savings of between £3 million and £7.8 million—7% to 20% of budget—in a typical council.

In conclusion, I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response and hope that he will answer the following questions. How is the evidence review going? When will the results be available? Are the wide range of interested parties in the sector being consulted? What is the impact of the roll out of universal credit? Will he give early confirmation tonight that the threat of the crude local housing allowance cap will be removed after next April? In putting in place the new framework for the future funding of supported housing I urge the Government to be sympathetic and visionary and to think strategically. It is important for the futures of so many vulnerable people that the Government pursue such a course.

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It is a pleasure to be able to contribute to this important debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) not only on his well-judged and sensible remarks, but on his commitment to the issue, as well as hon. and right hon. Members from across the House. When we discussed this matter in March, the Minister was receptive.

It would also be remiss of me not to record my delight at the result of my party’s leadership process. My right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), our new party leader and, from tomorrow, Prime Minister, has made a specific and strong commitment to housing, making it perhaps the No. 1 issue in our country. That is important.

I welcome the Government’s decision to undertake a detailed strategic review of supported and specialist housing in response to a groundswell of concern not only from registered providers across the country, but from constituency Members of Parliament. I want to make a few general comments—I do not have the same command of the facts and figures as my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney—and to talk about the impact on my constituency and the surrounding area. I am extremely grateful to Alan Lewin, the chief executive of Axiom Housing Association, who has provided me with a strong briefing.

A year ago, I attended a social event at No. 11 Downing Street—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) is impressed. I do occasionally cross the threshold of some esteemed addresses in this country and I may do so again in the future, under the new dispensation—who knows? I am touched by the hon. Lady’s solicitude. On that occasion, I said to the Chancellor that the problems of supported and specialist housing, acute hospital care, adult social care and the interface with local government cannot be solved through salami-slicing or incremental policies. We need a long-term strategic vision of how to address the massive demographic changes that have led to many additional older people needing to be housed.

The Minister is somewhat caught here, because the matter is not really the responsibility of the Department for Communities and Local Government; this is very much a Treasury-driven initiative. He cannot say that, but I can, as a humble Back Bencher. Unfortunately, his Department is caught between Scylla and Charybdis in that it has to continue to develop policy even though long-term thinking has not yet been put in place. The House must be aware that this issue is probably the most important that we face, because we cannot beat the demographic clock. As my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney said, we are undermining our own policies to a certain extent—the policy of oversight from local government of adult social care, health and the transforming care programme.

We certainly need extra time to put a new funding formula in place, but this must not be done on a spatchcock basis. We must think about predicting demographic change and helping local housing associations to deal with that. This is about supported housing for not only older people, but some of the most vulnerable in our society, such as those with special educational needs—

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I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) for securing this debate. I just want to say something briefly about supported housing for vulnerable people, which is exactly what my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) is talking about. This is not just about the country, so I want to bring London back into the equation. If we build these things only out of London, people have to leave their local communities. If we want to keep people within the family environment, it is important that we are able to build these expensive properties in London. The only other point I wish to make is that at the moment we can build them by using section 106 agreements, but if buildings are to become starter homes or will have to be sold off, there will be even less opportunity for councils to provide such housing. I urge the Minister to consider supported housing and this type of accommodation when thinking about what other options are available.

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My hon. Friend goes to the nub of the issue. We are not talking about fiscal changes regarding general needs housing, which is a separate issue. We understand that there has been a significant increase in the housing benefit bill over the past number of years and we have to reduce that. We are talking here about young people who are fleeing violent backgrounds, women who are fleeing violent partners, and teenagers, children and young adults who have mental health issues—my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney alluded to this point. That situation is different, so the Minister needs to put a case to the Treasury that a much more long-term and sustainable funding regime should be put in place before we go any further.

I mentioned delayed discharge. If only we were in a position to plan these supported housing schemes properly—they are now under threat, as my hon. Friend so eloquently revealed—we would make a net saving. The process might take five or 10 years, but we must consider the number of older people who are admitted to hospital when they do not need to be in acute hospital beds, but instead need appropriate housing to deal with their specific individual needs.

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Does my hon. Friend agree that many elderly people and those with specific conditions might be able to avoid a hospital admission altogether if they had the right supported housing?

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Absolutely. One of the great pleasures of being a constituency MP is that we get to visit some of these excellent supported housing schemes—these extra care centres—with Friary Court and the Pavilions being two that Axiom Housing Association has in the urban area of Peterborough.

May I allude briefly to the specific concerns that Mr Lewin raised about the impact of these changes in the Peterborough area? He said:

“Axiom has already felt one of the consequences of the proposed LHA policy—a flagship extra care scheme for 60 vulnerable people at Whittlesey is now on hold as we cannot commit to building these new projects when there is uncertainty surrounding the future revenue funding streams.”

Whittlesey is actually in North East Cambridgeshire, but the point is very reasonable. The policy has a particular impact when low-value land is involved, as is the case in our neighbouring authority of Fenland, although that also applies to other parts of the east of England.

Mr Lewin also mentions the services that are affected, which include young persons’ foyers, homeless hostels, specialist supported housing, extra care housing and sheltered housing. He goes on to detail the

“current impact on each of these schemes/projects based on current rents and service charges”.

For instance, the Peterborough Foyer and the Wisbech Foyer, which do a really good job for young people who want to get off benefits, find work, training or internships, and make something of their lives and improve themselves, will face a cumulative loss in annual income of £620,557. He said that our homeless hostels, such as Fairview Court and New Haven, would lose £461,735. The three Peterborough extra care schemes, two of which I have mentioned, will lose £794,704.

Part of the problem is that we do not get a generic service with such specialist housing. We have night porter services for safety and security, which is an enhanced service that has to be paid for. Losses will also vary according to the amount of Supporting People money that funds support costs. When there is little such money, the costs are included in the housing benefit element of the service charge, which will now be capped. Mr Lewin goes on to say that the projected lost revenue to Axiom for supported housing is £2.2 million.

Unless the Government have quite an innovative, forward-looking and visionary approach for how else that money can be made up, many of the registered providers that provide this much-needed housing for vulnerable people will find themselves in great difficulty, and that will clearly impact on work in the community and in general needs housing. A local housing association in my constituency, Cross Keys Homes, runs an apprenticeship school, which is a fantastic scheme. There will be a knock-on effect—a cumulative knock-on effect across the country—in terms of how individuals will have to be taken care of if they cannot be housed in the most appropriate way.

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The hon. Gentleman is making an excellent speech and I agree with much of what he is saying. Does he agree that if people cannot access services such as Blue Triangle and the ARCH resettlement service in my constituency, they would be out on the streets and in very unsafe situations, because there are literally no other housing providers that will take them?

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Absolutely. The hon. Lady makes a very good point. There will be consequences if we do not step back.

I did not refer to the new Prime Minister because I want a job, as that is highly unlikely to happen. After 11 years, I am resigned to being a humble spear carrier in the drama of British politics—there has been a lot of drama this week. I did so because a new Government will have new priorities, a new vision and new principles. Housing is massively important, especially general needs housing. I am talking about housing our most vulnerable people, looking after them and getting them off the streets. In many respects, I am inordinately proud of what this Government have done on housing, but I am making my remarks because I do not want them to throw that record away through a short-term action of cutting £100 million here or there and therefore making the situation worse down the line.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney for securing this debate. I also pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown) for raising this issue previously. I hope that the Minister will reassure me that he will talk to his colleagues in the Treasury and other Departments and that he will come back to us, once the review has concluded in an expeditious fashion in the next few months, so that we can tell our constituents and housing associations that the Government are taking housing seriously and looking after the needs of the most vulnerable people in society. We are compassionate Conservatives, and that should be our watchword.

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I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) on securing this important debate. From his speech it was obvious that he has significant knowledge of the subject, and in my speech I will do my best to respond to his comments. It is obvious from other interventions and the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) that a considerable number of Members across this House also have significant knowledge of and passion for this important subject. I am particularly pleased to be responding to this debate because we are at a crucial point in our important journey to review and reform the funding of supported housing.

Supported housing plays a crucial role in supporting hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable people in the country. A safe, stable and supportive place to live can be the key to unlocking better outcomes for individuals. For many, it is a stepping-stone to independent living in the longer term, as several colleagues mentioned. One of this Government’s key commitments is to protect the most vulnerable. The provision of supported housing underpins that commitment and helps Departments across Whitehall fulfil their objectives in supporting those most in need and delivering on this promise.

As has rightly been said, the sector supports people across the country, from those with mental health conditions to rough sleepers, people who are homeless, ex-offenders and those escaping domestic violence. It ensures that vulnerable elderly people can maintain their independence for as long as possible and live in safety and security, that those with learning difficulties can live as independently as possible, and that care leavers can safely make the transition to self-reliance. The importance of supported housing cannot be overestimated. Supported housing helps people meet the demands of daily life, it helps people get their lives in order, it improves and supports their health and well-being, and it provides a place of safety and stability where people can achieve independence and reach their full potential.

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rose—

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I understand that the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene, but I will heed Mr Speaker’s comments earlier in the debate.

While looking after the most vulnerable in society, we must also ensure that funding for supported housing is efficient, workable, transparent and sustainable, so that it delivers a secure, quality service that provides for those who need it and makes the best use of the money available. Long-term reform of the sector is overdue. Working with and listening to commissioners and providers to date has been invaluable in helping us to envisage what the future might look like, and I see a very positive future where high quality supported housing is there to provide the right support at the right time and for the right length of time, helping those who can move on into work and independence. Services must be outcomes-focused, accountable, planned and responsive to individual and local needs. Our new funding regime must support these goals. The decisions that we make now will lay the foundations for that future.

The roll-out of universal credit provides an opportunity to drive that reform as housing benefit is phased out. Reform of the sector and a new funding regime must be in place for when universal credit is fully rolled out. We think that better services for vulnerable people and value for money go hand in hand. Our reforms must drive both. We want the quality of services and a focus on outcomes for the people who use them to be at the forefront. We must consider new approaches to transparency and oversight in order to achieve this.

Let me therefore set out what I believe must be the principles for a new long-term funding regime. It must protect the public finances—for the taxpayer, as well as for central and local government. It must also build in a rigorous approach to value for money. At the same time, to protect vulnerable and older people, now and in the future, it must be funded in a way that recognises the increased cost of supporting people in the community, as colleagues on both sides of the Chamber have mentioned.

I also want to ensure that a future funding model provides enough certainty to allow the development of new supported housing units. In particular, an ageing population demands that services and supply keep pace with our social care needs.

Welfare spending cannot be left to spiral out of control. It is also right that people seeking help with their housing costs should not get higher levels of housing benefit for the same property if it is in the social rather than the private rented sector.

However, it is clear that supported housing is different and should be treated differently. The Government recognise the higher costs associated with providing supported housing for vulnerable groups, over and above the costs of general-needs housing. That is why it is crucial, as my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough said, that we work across Government and alongside the sector and other partners to find a workable and sustainable solution.

There has rightly been great interest in this important issue. We have said all along that we wish to hear from a wide spectrum of stakeholders and other partners to ensure that we reflect the diversity of vulnerable people’s needs and the support offer across all the different parts of the sector. I can reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney, who asked about our engagement with the sector, that we constantly engage with it over this important issue, and we have been doing so for some months, because the sector is absolutely part of coming up with a sustainable solution. Having spoken to the sector, I think it recognises that the status quo is not an option, and it is making strong representations, which we are certainly listening to.

As I say, we have been listening to, and working with, providers, umbrella bodies such as the National Housing Federation and the Local Government Association, and local authorities and other local commissioners, as well as those who represent people in need who rely on, and benefit from, supported housing.

Of course, in Scotland and Wales housing is a devolved matter, and UK Government officials have been speaking to their counterparts in the devolved Administrations. That dialogue has been crucial to guiding our thinking on this important issue, and we need to keep talking as we firm up our plans.

I take the opportunity to thank sector bodies and representatives, such as the National Housing Federation, for the extensive engagement and work they have undertaken to consider what the future regime might look like. It is important that we consider all their proposals in detail, continue the conversation we have begun with the sector and other partners, and hear all voices across this diverse sector.

It is clear that supported housing is an investment that brings significant savings to other parts of the public sector, particularly the NHS. At the same time, any loss of provision risks significant disruption to service users, as well as expensive cost-shunting. That is, why earlier this year, we listened carefully to the sector and put in place the one-year exemption. That short-term exemption was welcomed by the sector, but we recognise that it is only a temporary fix, which is why we are looking at a longer-term solution. That solution must work for all parts of the sector. We must make sure that we recognise the diversity in the sector, and we will continue to do that.

I will certainly take into account the points that my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney and colleagues across the Chamber, have made. We look forward to bringing forward a solution to this important issue as soon as is practical.

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Will the Minister give way?

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indicated dissent.

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I am sorry—has the Minister sat down? Is he not giving way? [Interruption.]

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The Minister says that he has concluded his speech.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.