Why we are working on a bespoke sector scorecard for supported housing

April 16th, 2019 by Rachael Byrne, Executive Director, New Models of Care in Care and Support blog

Residents at Woodcock Court

Supported housing has its own unique business model and needs to be measured against specific metrics. We have started working on creating them, writes Rachael Byrne.

The launch of the sector scorecard was a huge success, demonstrating the sector’s desire to learn from others in order to drive performance improvement. 

Although it’s early days, there is one fact we already know. That, as good as the sector scorecard is, it naturally can’t take into account the nuances in what is an increasingly diverse sector. And nowhere is that more apparent than for supported housing.

We know that Home Group’s supported housing business, like that of our peers, leads to us being an outlier on certain metrics when compared to the rest of the sector, as supported housing operates under a very different business model to our core general needs social lettings business.

For example, margins can be significantly lower because of the higher staffing costs involved in providing the level of care and support our customers need, and a higher proportion of income is from service charges which are there to cover costs incurred. However, it is less capital intensive, so does not require as high a return as general needs in order to cover the cost of financing and ongoing maintenance.

It would be hugely beneficial if the sector, and others, were allowed a better understanding of the costs involved in delivering supported housing, and how these compare between providers. Equally, in providing us with the information we need to make better decisions internally when renewing or bidding for contracts. 

In December, with the support of the National Housing Federation, we invited a range of supported housing providers, both large and small, to get together to discuss the possibility of developing some supported-specific metrics. Although everyone acknowledged the challenges of developing metrics that would allow true comparability between providers, there was great enthusiasm to take on this challenge.

In April, we held our inaugural meeting as a working group, and discussed what the main purpose of a scorecard would be. We agreed that our approach would be to develop a subset of the main sector scorecard, specifically for supported housing, with some additional measures to demonstrate the value we deliver for our customers.

This was felt to be an achievable starting point, although as a group, we may also work together to review things such as how we measure customer satisfaction and customer outcomes.

Supporting the group will be representatives from the National Housing Federation, HouseMark and Acuity, as well as MHCLG.

Having a scorecard in place that helps us to show the value we provide to customers, the impact we have on their lives and the return on investment we deliver for partners will be fundamental going forward. Especially, when you consider what the supported sector has had to endure over recent years.

For over two years we were under the threat of a local housing allowance cap being applied to supported housing. Potentially seeing our overall rents reduced to a level by which a great deal of our supported housing would have been unviable. While we successfully worked with government to see that position reversed, a scorecard could well have helped.

Even though it was confirmed in August 2018 that eligible housing costs across all supported housing would continue to be met by Housing Benefit, supported housing continues to face a funding challenge. The loss of ring-fenced Supporting People funding, coupled with reductions in Local Authorities’ budgets has led to funding for some services disappearing entirely, and a much more challenging commissioning environment for remaining services. 

There will have been questions asked in the sector about whether it was viable to continue providing some of those services, during that period of uncertainty and some providers may have moved away from supported housing for this reason. 

In this context a question still remains for us as to whether we truly understand our costs and how we can successfully learn from other providers by sharing data to improve the value for money we deliver for our customers and commissioners.

We feel a supported housing sector scorecard would bring with it a number of benefits. Exactly what we measure we will work on in the coming months. 

When we have a draft scorecard we will through NHF look to reach as many supported housing providers as our interested for contributions and feedback.

Benefiting our customers, partners, and ourselves as a sector by benchmarking is our ultimate goal. To achieve that we need to be the drivers of the process. After all it is ourselves and our customers that know our true worth.

Rachael Byrne, Executive Director, New Models of Care 

Working group:
Anchor Hanover
The Guinness Partnership
Home Group
L&Q Living
Look Ahead
Nottingham Community Housing Association
One Housing
Together Housing 
Richmond Fellowship