Moving forward with supported housing

November 29th, 2017 by Rachael Byrne, Executive Director, New Models of Care in Corporate Blog

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After almost two years of uncertainty in the sector, the government’s decision to NOT implement Local Housing Allowance caps has been met with both absolute relief and a fair degree of head scratching about what's next. For us at Home Group, we feel it takes a significant step forward in recognising the journey that individuals must take to embrace independence, with the certainty that their home — be that short-term or long-term — is more secure.

Independence can mean different things to different people. Those who do live in long-term supported housing can, indeed, reach their personal independence goals. They may always need some degree of support, but the environment in which they live can help them travel along a pathway to healthy living, skills development, and employability. While recognising that the two year definition for short-term supported housing will prove to be controversial, we shouldn’t downplay the difference to an individual that can be made in six weeks, six months, or two years. However, the two funding streams suggested for short- and long-term are very different. 

We are now all focused on responding to the consultation due back with the government in January. The three bespoke approaches taken by the government in terms of funding allocations demonstrate an understanding that supported housing cannot work with a one-size-fits-all solution. Different people have different aspirations, challenges, and levels of independence. And yet, even though the three strands are different, they can and do interlink.

For example, a learning disability service such as Home Group’s Kingston House in Hull can provide a home for life. At the same time, it can prepare people, at a pace suited to them, to move on into an independent home. 

Of course, somebody who is more vulnerable in some ways may experience a broader range of challenges throughout their lives. So, while they may have developed independent living skills and moved on from supported housing, circumstances such as illness or social problems could dictate an interim need for extra support. This may be a form of respite care needed for only a short while to help them get back on their feet. 

Our Home View service in Blackpool is a good example of this type of service. It’s a step-down service created through a partnership with the Lancashire Care NHS Trust for individuals leaving acute inpatient mental health care. Some residents might be quite independent day-to-day despite living with a long-term mental illness or disability. However, a hospital stay or crisis may leave them feeling temporarily more vulnerable, so this kind of transitional support is a stepping stone back to independence.

Additionally, some residents move into Home View because, following hospital treatment, they have nowhere else to go and leaving hospital under these circumstances could set their mental health back drastically. The thing is, if we tackle some of the root causes of homelessness, such as poor mental and physical health, we can break this cycle and encourage sustainable independence and wellbeing. Short-term supported accommodation can equip people with the skills to do this.

At Home Group we are developing services too, and we are currently investing £50 million in three community wellbeing schemes, providing 300+ supported homes. They are a mix of long-term learning disability supported housing, step down from hospital provision, and homes for life for older customers requiring ongoing care. A mix of need, a mix of tenure, and now a very mixed funding model that we need to ensure works for our customers. I don’t underestimate the challenge but I do welcome the opportunity to do all we can to make it work!

Of course, we can’t give the government a standing ovation until we see the finale — we need to know much more on the all-important detail which underpins the new approach.

Will the funding package discussed for short-term supported housing be ring-fenced? If so, at what level? How do we protect that over the medium term? What one government gives another can quickly take. We need to see how these sums stack up in practice — and we know there are certain specialist service providers who are indeed quite concerned about this.

We also need to ensure that we are equipped to work in a more cohesive way to help customers navigate their way through the most appropriate supported pathway for them. If we don’t join the dots, the revolving door syndrome will continue, and progress will be stunted.

All in all we are moving in the right direction. We are recognising the individuality of the people we work with, and understanding the need for collaboration to ensure their changing needs are met as they progress towards independence. 

This article was originally written for HQN’s Housing Management Network — the network dedicated to supporting staff working in all areas of housing management, at every level. Please contact Louise Burgess on louise.burgess@hqnetwork.co.uk or visit http://hqnetwork.co.uk/the-housing-management-network for more information on joining this network.