Supported housing funding opportunity

It is now a couple of months since the government’s consultation document on the funding of supported housing was published.

Reading it again, it’s hard to find fault with their reasoning: that supported housing provides vital support to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people; existing funding arrangements are complex and don’t always lead to good outcomes; and a new long-term funding model is required to incentivise new development.

The proposal to give local authorities an enhanced role in commissioning also makes a lot of sense. I’m sure many housing providers won’t welcome their intervention but meeting need in a coherent and consistent way does require an overview that only a local authority can provide.

For instance, a 2016 study by the University of Southampton on the determinants of transitions into sheltered accommodation in later life found that although it provides beneficial outcomes, existing social tenants have much greater access than those in the private sector.

The report calls for policymakers and planners to consider making such a housing option available to all, so that those most in need can access it.

It is also important not to treat supported housing in isolation. Around 80% of older homeowners wish to stay where they are. Such preferences relate to a strong neighbourhood attachment among older homeowners reflecting a sense of belonging to a close-knit neighbourhood and being able to rely on neighbours.

Many will need to make adaptations or carry out repairs with the help of their local home improvement agency, and may be eligible to apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG).

Since 2014 the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) fund has been part of the Better Care Fund – a pooled local budget between health, social care and (because of DFG) housing. Admittedly, this has worked better in some areas than others, but for the first time it does give the housing sector a seat at the health and care table.

With some of the other non-housing benefit spend on supported housing from health and social care also sitting in the Better Care Fund, it’s worth considering whether this is where the new ‘top-up’ funding would best fit. It certainly meets the government’s desire for local authorities to “take a more coherent approach to commissioning for needs across housing, health and social care”.

From my past experiences as both a commissioner and a board member for a housing association, fragmented sources of funding tend to lead to fragmented delivery of services. If the intention is to improve outcomes and deliver person-centred, joined-up services then funding has to be joined up too.

For instance, some schemes will have separate care and support teams that double the overhead costs and will ‘pass the buck’ rather than deal with an issue as a direct result of the way the services were commissioned.

For years the housing sector has sought to be an integral part of health and care provision – the proverbial third leg of the stool. This consultation and subsequent Green Paper on supported housing provides just that opportunity. I just hope we don’t get trapped by trying to protect the status quo.

This article was originally published in Inside Housing