We need a bold new funding model for supported housing

July 1st, 2016 in Care and Support blog

A small house in cupped hands

Rachael Byrne, Executive Director for Care and Support, looks at why it is time we start to make the case for change in supported housing.

We will soon get the findings of the review commissioned by government and conducted by Imogen Blood into supported housing. The results are likely to be a double edged sword. They will go some way towards showing the positive impact of social care but they will also uncover a multi-billion, perhaps as much as £4-6bn, cost through housing benefit.

Alongside the findings we fully expect Welfare Minister, Lord Freud to outline a new direction of travel. That’s something that the sector needs to grasp. Too much of the debate has focussed on the wrong thing. We all of us only have a limited amount of time. So we face a stark choice, expand our energy in defence of the status quo - That’s understandable as the desire to protect what we have is a very human one.

Or we can, as I believe we must, accept that the present system must change if it is to survive and start to articulate a bold new vision for supported housing.

Crucially this shouldn’t be seen as Supporting People 2.0. The mechanism and evaluation of SP meant it was all too easy to cut back on. One way in which the new funding mechanism needs to be better is in the monitoring of hard outcomes. As a sector we measure a lot but still seem to lack the hard data we need to support our case.

Examples of outcomes could include, but not be limited to:

  • Reduce hospital re-admissions;
  • Facilitate quicker hospital discharge;
  • Move clients into employment;
  • Support clients  with a learning disability to live independently;
  • Improve self-reported well-being for clients with a mental health diagnosis.

These hard outcomes would help us to make the case for what those in the sector intuitively know. Supported housing is great taxpayer value and ought to be protected.

What does a new model look like?

Well at a high level I believe it’s got to have three basic components.

  • Core rent

If people were not in supported housing then they would be in the PRS and DWP would be picking up the bill. That’s therefore got to be the starting point. Core rent would be met through housing benefit/UC on basis of national rules of eligibility/entitlement similar to other social housing tenants

Housing benefit entitlement based on current rent (set in accordance with regulation/legislation for RPs). Capped to LHA with a supported housing uplift applied (ie LHA +). 

  • Rent+

This would reflect the property based service charges and also met through housing benefit/UC. The type of cost included would currently be met through services charges and include; gardening, cleaning, utilities for common areas, or provision and maintenance of access/security systems, lifts etc. It would be charged on cost recovery basis, subject to leasehold legislation.

  • People based support services

Cost of people based support services met outside housing benefit/UC. That’s not really what HB/UC is designed for. It would be a cash limited pot established with services commissioned locally in accordance with a national outcome based framework. It would be DEL (Departmental Expenditure Limits) as opposed to AME (Annual Managed Expenditure) and give DWP / Treasury confidence that costs can be controlled in future.

Where appropriate these funds ought to be administered at combined authority (CA) level to encourage greater efficiency and strategic commissioning - when CAs are mature enough.

Pot funded by one-off ‘passporting’ of funds from DWP, based on current level of funding for existing services through HB.  DWP needs to have its own conversations about additional contributions by local authorities and/or others (eg CCGs, MoJ, DoH etc)

Crucially these funds would be protected to provide safeguards ensuring appropriate use, with regular reviews considering changing demographic need. Further growth predicated on demonstrable savings/cost avoidance for other services. I’ve dealt with that a little in the section on outcomes.

Any new funding mechanism has also got to recognize that that in areas like Manchester, the combined authority has responsibility for social care. As this trend looks set to continue, we should ensure that a future funding system incorporates devolution structures and is built to work within a devolved policy environment. In certain locations I might personally find that difficult to deal with but it’s unlikely that Whitehall will collectively agree a solution which doesn’t involve some degree of devolution.

There are lots of options and areas which we need to have a conversation about. How much is core rent? Where does rent plus start and stop? How do we passport and protect to ensure that providers and others have confidence? On these we need to develop a consensus and build an argument. At Home Group we haven’t come up with these ideas alone we’ve been active in talking to others in the sector and also think tanks and others to help test and challenge.

Change might not always be easy. I don’t expect to get everything we are asking for but surely it’s better to be shaping the agenda than to be shaped by others. If we want a sustainable supported housing sector then it’s time we all started to make the case for change.