A coalition of disability charities has signed an open letter calling on the government to end the growing uncertainty around future funding for the supported housing sector, which is a lifeline for disabled people who want to live independently and access their community.
Since last year’s Autumn statement, when the government announced an intention to cap Housing Benefit rates for the social housing sector at the same level as the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) from 2018 onwards, supported housing providers have been forced to put on hold future developments that offer disabled people the safety and security of a home to live in.
The government has continually delayed any further announcement, meaning the future of supported housing has been put into question. The charities say that if the LHA cap were to go ahead, 40% of existing supported accommodation schemes would be at risk of closure, meaning disabled tenants at risk of losing their home. In addition, 80% of planned supported housing projects would be at risk of being built, citing figures from the National Housing Federation.
Jan Tregelles, chief executive of learning disability charity Mencap and who signed the letter, said: “Supported housing is a lifeline for disabled people who want to live independently, feel part of their community and have control over where they call home. It is the foundation for a more independent life for many people with a learning disability, and supports the move away from housing people in inappropriate accommodation, such as assessment and treatment units, where people may be at an increased risk of abuse and neglect.
“The pressure on supported housing is already immense, with at least 900 more supported homes required every year for people with a learning disability alone. The recent government announcement of a cap on Housing Benefit rates for supported housing has created an uncertainty that has forced providers to put on hold plans to buy or build new properties, and which is likely to turn this pressure into a crisis.
“It is now key that the government does their part and offers the certainty the sector desperately needs. We urge the government to provide this by removing the threat of the LHA cap and by creating a sustainable long-term funding structure for supported housing going forward, so people with a learning disability can live independent lives and access their community.”
Raphaela and Glynn Derrick, Roma and Charles DeSilva, Margaret and Alan Summers, Mary and Garry Davies are parents of Cliona, Leanne, Christopher and Hugh who all heave a learning disability and live together in a supported housing property in Ilford. They said: “Our children all have a learning disability and need extra support in their day-to-day lives, but they still have the desire to be independent and enjoy the same opportunities as other young people. One evening we sat together and drew up a ‘wish list’ of what we would need for them to live together as friends, with 24-hour support in order for them to have their own lives independent from their parents. Supported housing offered us this and so much more.
“Since moving into their own home they have grown in confidence, independence, enjoy socialising and are even planning their first holiday together. With the current shortage of housing finding adapted houses for disabled people is even harder, but supported housing gives people this opportunity.
“It has transformed their lives and ours in a way we couldn’t imagine. We’d feel deeply concerned if giving people with a learning disability this opportunity to live independently became even harder.”
The open letter said:
Dear Secretary of State for Work and Pensions,
Supported housing is a lifeline for disabled people who want to live independently in the community. However, since last year’s Autumn Statement, when the Government announced that they intend to cap Housing Benefit rates at the same level as the Local Housing Allowance from 2018 onwards, a shadow of uncertainty has been cast over the entire supported housing sector.
We had hoped for this uncertainty to be lifted by now, and that the sector would have been made aware of a positive resolution about its future. Instead, we have been told that it could continue until at least October this year, if not beyond.
A decision to go ahead with a crude LHA cap would put 40% of existing supported accommodation schemes at threat of closure, putting many tenants at risk of losing their homes. The uncertainty around this issue has also already stopped the development of 80% of planned supported housing projects being built. Many tenants may in future be at risk of being sent to inappropriate accommodation which does not support their right to live independently in the community with appropriate support.
For many disabled people supported housing is their only access to the safety and security of their own home. It gives people choice over where they live and the ability to have some control over their lives. It can be more expensive to build, often requires adaptation and incurs higher maintenance costs due to the complexity of tenants’ needs. But without it disabled people’s ability to live independently would be severely limited.
The continued uncertainty around how supported housing will be funded is causing a housing crisis for disabled people. We urge the Government to end this uncertainty and make it clear as a matter of urgency that the LHA cap will play no part in the review of how supported housing will be financed from 2018 onwards and beyond.
• Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap
• Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind
• Richard Kramer, deputy chief executive of Sense
• Lesley-Anne Alexander, chief executive of RNIB
• Mark Lever, chief executive of National Autistic Society
• Vicky McDermott, chief executive of Papworth Trust
• Mark Elliott, director of development, Leonard Cheshire
• Tracey Lazard, CEO of Inclusion London
• Sally Light, chief executive of MND Association
• Mark Winstanley, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness
• Tim Cooper, chief executive of United Response
• Elizabeth Bates, chief executive officer at Deafblind UK
• Steve Scown, chief executive of Dimensions
• Jolanta Lasota, chief executive of Ambitious about Autism
• Alicia Wood, chief executive of Housing and Support Alliance