The Work and Pension and Community and Local Government Committees’ report has three chapters.
The first considers the value of supported housing, both the extent to which it delivers cost savings to the wider public sector and its impact on residents’ quality of life. In particular, it states:
- The Government should establish a set of national standards to enable monitoring of the quality of provision in all supported housing in England and Wales. These should have a specific emphasis on improving the quality of life that tenants experience in supported housing. All providers should be registered with their local authority, whether or not their services have been commissioned locally. Local authorities should undertake annual inspections of all supported housing schemes in their area to ensure a minimum standard of provision, and
- Tenants must be able to make complaints about the quality of the service they are receiving without fear of the consequences. However, current redress mechanisms in England are unsatisfactory and require a thorough review by the Government. The Government should ensure tenants are appropriately and adequately supported in seeking redress where the quality of the service they receive is inadequate.
The second chapter focuses on the Government’s funding proposals, and considers whether the LHA rate is an appropriate starting point for a new funding model, how the top-up funding should operate, and whether the new funding mechanism should be piloted in advance of its nationwide roll-out. In particular, it states:
- It is essential that the Government’s funding proposals do not threaten the future supply of supported housing. The Government should undertake an assessment of the final funding proposal to assess its impact on the future provision of supported housing. This information should be provided to the successor Work and Pensions Committee and Communities and Local Government Committee in the new Parliament
- The Government should introduce a Supported Housing Allowance, with a system of bandings for different types of provision and a cap within each band. The Supported Housing Allowance would be calculated according to a formula made up of two elements: a fixed amount that reflects the cost of provision, which is consistent between geographical areas; and a smaller, variable amount that reflects differences in land values in each area. The Government should work with the sector to identify bandings that adequately reflect the diversity of provision and variation in costs in the sector
- The Supported Housing Allowance should be sufficient to ensure supported housing tenants only require recourse to locally-administered top-up funding in exceptional circumstances. To meet the Government’s objective for greater oversight of quality and value for money in the sector, tenants should only be eligible for the Supported Housing Allowance if they live in accommodation registered for regular inspection by their local authority
- A capital grant scheme should be introduced for new supported housing developments. This would mean that, even when the cost of land varied between high and low value areas, core rent and service charges for new accommodation would remain largely consistent with existing supported housing stock. Reducing the cost differences between old and new supported housing would simplify the funding mechanism, permitting greater oversight of costs and value for money, while reducing risk for providers and encouraging additional investment in the sector
- The Government should guarantee the ring-fence around local authority top-up funding for supported housing for the duration of the next Parliament, and provide a clear indication of its desire for the fund to remain in the long-term. The Government should review existing guidance and statutory duties to ensure they are comprehensive enough to ensure no vulnerable groups are left behind under the new funding mechanism
- The Government should ensure local authorities have sufficient guidance, time and resources to collect the necessary data for the review of current and future need in their areas, even if this requires retaining the current arrangements for a longer period of time. Central funding of the top-up should be guaranteed for at least the duration of the next Parliament, to provide greater certainty to local authorities’ funding cycles and long-term commissioning plans. Funding levels should be kept under regular review to ensure the top-up fund keeps pace with increases in the cost of provision and changes in local demand for different services and
- There is a strong case for piloting the new funding model prior to a phased implementation. The Government has proposed significant changes to the way in which supported housing is funded, which will require considerable adjustment by both providers and local authorities. The Government must prioritise ensuring its new model works, protecting vulnerable residents, over and above meeting any self-imposed delivery deadlines.
The final chapter examines issues associated with short-term accommodation, including whether an alternative funding mechanism would be necessary and whether Housing Benefit and Universal Credit create barriers to finding work or leaving supported housing when residents are ready to do so. In particular, it states:
- The Government should ensure the benefits system does not discourage people from leaving supported housing when they are ready to do so. Benefits restrictions that may be justified in the private rented sector should not be applied to those looking to leave supported housing. The Government should therefore extend the exemption from the Shared Accommodation Rate to younger tenants wishing to leave supported housing. We also recommend that 18 to 21 year olds leaving supported housing be eligible for Housing Benefit, unless in the view of the supported housing provider, it is appropriate for them to return home. This would give them a greater choice of appropriate accommodation and encourage them to move out of supported housing more quickly when they are ready, freeing up valuable housing for other vulnerable people. We further recommend that, in response to this report, the Government clearly set out how 18 to 21 year olds leaving supported housing will be assessed for eligibility for Housing Benefit against existing exemptions.