Homeless hostels, domestic violence and abuse refuges and sheltered housing will all close as a result of this Conservative government’s policy.
No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ no hyperbole or scaremongering, just inevitable fact!
Let me make this confusing and complex area very very simple, so simple in fact that even a Tory MP can understand and the first example explains it all – even one as incompetent as Iain Duncan Smith whose policy this is and who poses below in the only factual answer he has ever given in his life, that of the size of his brain and how much competence he has!
So here are some simple figures and simple comment even the above incompetent deluded f*ckwit can understand. Let’s begin…
- There are 36,000 bedspaces for single homeless people and according to Homeless Link each of these bedspaces receives on average £180 per week in housing benefit.
- The government policy is that no form of housing can receive any more in housing benefit than the local housing allowance (LHA) rate.
- Single homeless persons would then only be entitled to the 1 bed LHA rate which averages £111 per week nationally, or if they are under 35 years of age a lower rate of £67 per week which again is a national average.
- Instead of the 36,000 single homeless persons receiving £180 per week in housing benefit they will either receive £67 per week or £111 per week – all figures are averages.
- This means the 36,000 single homeless persons will receive between £130 million and £230 million less in housing benefit per year. If 75% of single homeless is for the under 35’s, which is a good approximation, then the housing benefit cut to all single homeless services will be £205 million
As a result all single homeless hostels will have to close.
The Conservative government has said the differences between what is paid now and what will be paid in housing benefit can be made by local councils whom central government is giving £35 million per year in Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP)
Yet as just the single homeless hostel example shows the housing benefit cut will be between £130 million and £230 million so the extra £35 million is not going to work.
This additional £35 million in DHP is also meant to cover the housing benefit shortfalls for DV refuges, specialist supported housing for mental health, learning, physical and sensory, disability, acquired brain injury and just about any other vulnerability and support need. The £35 million per year is also meant to cover the housing benefit cuts to sheltered housing too.
So every domestic violence and abuse refuge will close as will many sheltered housing schemes as will specialist supported housing for those with mental health or and other health or disability or support need.
Today, 26 January 2016, sees the Guardian run an article on this here that only serves to confuse this complex issue unfortunately by the otherwise excellent Patrick Butler. The funding of supported and sheltered housing IS very complex and is very difficult to explain what this government policy will do – hence my example above using the numbers.
The Guardian article says, wrongly as it transpires, that 50,000 tenants in ‘specialist’ supported housing will lose £68 per week on average. That is an underestimate and ignores sheltered housing and is vague and originates from figures given to Labour’s John Healey a few weeks ago.
Yet set that aside and do the figures and we see that 50,000 lots of £68 per week is alone £177 million per year which government believe can be mitigated by £35 million of additional DHPs!
Of course that is a nonsense yet the Guardian article doesn’t even make that obvious and simple point in a very confusing piece all round. So let’s return to some actual figures and here is another simple example concerning sheltered housing.
Merseyside has an online choice-based lettings scheme that includes sheltered housing called Property Pool. On there you will find many 1 bed sheltered housing properties with a rent of around £140 per week and currently housing benefit pays that £140 per week.
Yet the 1 bed LHA rate in Merseyside is £90 or so per week which means the older person will need to find £50 each and every week from either their state pension or savings just to pay to rent. If they don’t then they will be evicted for arrears and of course they cannot afford this £2600 or so per year housing benefit shortfall.
Domestic violence and abuse.
I advise refuges as well as other supported housing services such as hostels and have done for over 20 years. This is relevant to understand who enters a refuge as a single woman with no children will only receive the SAR rate of housing benefit that averages £67 per week, a woman with 2 children will receive the 2 bed rate of LHA and a woman with 3 or 4 children will receive the 3 bed rate of LHA – different levels of housing benefit in other words.
Below is a simple table based on a 14 bedded refuge using good ballpark figures from services I know and from other refuge services I have spoken with. It reveals an overall 62% cut in housing benefit which of course also means closure.
This table shows the differing rates of housing benefit that will be received under the Conservatives LHA maxima plan and reveals a cut in housing benefit of £111,141 per year. Closure is not hyperbole or scaremongering, it is reality.
Another article on this ill-conceived policy of the Conservatives comes from Bromford Housing who are a housing association with a significant supported housing presence and they too use examples which I reproduce below:
These are actual services and show both the scale of this housing benefit cut and also show the types of services affected, those with sight loss and those with autism. As I said above specialised supported housing covers a wide range of vulnerable tenant issues and needs.
Yet let’s return to single homeless hostels and below is an anonymised table of the impact this policy will have in Liverpool as the housing benefit figures are available in the public domain in the Mainstay directory.
As this crude table shows the total housing benefit cut just to single homeless services in Liverpool is £2.95 million per year and a cut of 58.7% on average which of course means closure too and also means many providers will have to fold as a great deal of homeless services are provided by small specialist charities and it further means that large homeless charities such as YMCA and Salvation Army will also fold.
This is not just a question of buildings closing, it is a question of charities folding left right and centre and note too that most DV refuges are run by small charities set up purely to run a refuge and other DV services. They will all fold and so all of that expertise and experience goes too.
Moreover, because this policy means there is no viable revenue funding for hostel, refuge or sheltered housing it will never reopen as it is financially non viable to operate.
This Conservative policy means more women will die as a result of domestic abuse as will many more children too. That is what this policy means in reality and without any hyperbole.
It also means huge added cost to the public purse as ‘battered wives’ bed block the NHS and as hundreds of thousands of older persons are forced to move into registered care homes and huge additional costs to police and criminal justice budgets as offenders are not released from £1200 per week prisons as there is nowhere for them to be released to, and a huge number of other additional costs.
One well known and never disputed figure that has been around for decades is that domestic violence and abuse provision saves the public purse £13 for every £1 that is invested in it.
Don’t pay that £1 which is this policy and the public purse gets £13 additional costs and those savings foregone are likely to cost the public purse – or additional costs to every taxpayer – of over £3 billion per year and as much as £5 billion per year.
The cost saving to the public purse is the key rationale for supported housing and this Conservative government is throwing the baby out with the bathwater in the LHA maxima policy.
The LHA maxima policy is not just amoral and a heartless bastard of a policy it is rank economic incompetence from this Conservative government
Yes the above deserves ‘shouty’ bold text doesn’t it!
Under the Conservative’s additional DHP as panacea plan Liverpool would get an additional £336,000 per year in DHP yet the cut just to single homeless services is £2.95 million so this simply cannot work.
In addition to that a ballpark figure for the housing benefit cut to sheltered housing in Liverpool is between £1.3 million to £1.45 million or so – and then we need to add the housing benefit cut for services to sensory loss, mental health, learning disability, autism, acquired brain injury and a host of other specialist supported housing services!
In short Liverpool’s supported and sheltered sector may well lose £5.5 to £6 million in housing benefit per year and the Conservative central government will give them £0.336 million to deal with that mess – and then blame the local council when services inevitably CLOSE!!! The same will of course happen nationally and even in Conservative-run local councils so this policy and issue is apolitical and will see Conservative local councils shafted in the very same way!
One final point needs to be made and UK housing associations are somewhat reticent to come forward with how much of a cut this is to their sheltered housing services. Understandable in part as they will have to evict older persons when this policy goes ahead and that is not just a huge issue of political significance generally, it is a massive reputational risk and survival issue and especially to the 40% or so of housing associations who are not former council landlords.
I will leave the complexities of that for now and just flagging it up but it holds significance when the UK housing sector says that there are between 110 – 130,000 supported housing units AND over 400,000 sheltered housing units – and all can and will affected by this. Those figures are also an underestimate too and a significant underestimate too as there are at least 170,000 supported housing units and at least 550,000 sheltered housing units – and I will cover this is a separate piece.
So the Guardian stating a vague 50,000 figure massively understates the issue as these numbers with a £177 million cut which is less than just the cut of £205 million just for single homeless services never mind all other supported and sheltered housing services.
The additional £35 million in DHP to cope which the Guardian fails to include and merely states yet fails to comment upon:
The government has argued that tenants can apply for local authority discretionary housing payments to make up the rent shortfall, but landlords say this short-term discretionary fund, which is also used to help tenants affected by the bedroom tax, is already overstretched.
That was announced 6 weeks ago in a parliamentary written answer from the DWP to John Healey:
Hopefully, now that it appears people have woken up to all the above issues I first put out on 15 December 2015 some 6 weeks ago, after the above and other parliamentary written answers became public, something will be finally done about the dog’s breakfast (with apologies to all canines) of the Conservative’s LHA maxima policy!
Don’t hold your breath though reader!
If you wish to read more on this see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here – and if you want any more on this ill-considered ideological back of a fag packet heap of shit please let me know!
If you want to re-read about when the Conservatives first raised this bullshit LHA maxima policy way back in July 2011 in a consultation paper and the reason I started blogging then you can look here
UPDATE – The head of the Placeshapers group of housing associations Sinead Butters also released an article on this in the Guardian todayan article on this in the Guardian today. A much better article as you would imagine yet still massively understating the issue as I explain below:
A direct quote says:
“More than 440,000 vulnerable people, many of them pensioners, live in housing association homes that are now at risk across England. These include sheltered housing and extra care for frail elderly people, and supported housing schemes for people recovering from alcohol and substance misuse, young people leaving care and women fleeing domestic violence.”
More than 440,000 vulnerable people, many of them pensioners live in HOUSING ASSOCIATION homes…
- How many more live in supported and sheltered housing owned by COUNCIL landlords?
- And how many more live in supported housing run by small often specialist charities who either own the properties or lease them from council landlords?
The overall figure is way in excess of the 440,000 cited by the Placeshapers Group and obviously so as the above two very simple questions reveal. Yet it was JUST these Placeshaper figures that John Healey latched onto when Labour first raised the issue a few weeks back publicly and they of course did NOT include the supported and sheltered housing run and owned by councils or charities.
I have found an old powerpoint presentation of the ODPM (now CLG) in relation to the Golden Cut for supported and sheltered housing services in England (alone) – so more in Scotland and Wales
As you can see there are a hell of a lot more than just 440,00 in housing associations and also note well that the Golden Cut figures of December 2002 increased by 28% or so to the Platinum Cut in April 2003 when Supporting People started. So while for example many homeless services have been cut in that time, the number of sheltered housing units has increased and significantly so.
Also there has been relatively little stock transfer since 2002 so the figure of 254,000 units of sheltered and supported accommodation with council landlords will not have decreased to any significant level.
The Golden Cut powerpoint also has this slide which emphasises many of the issues I raised above in terms of the wide variety of client groups of which I only touched upon homeless, refuge and sheltered
A number of the above services / client groups typically sees provision by social services departments as well as the small specialist charities who are neither housing association or council landlords – so they too will not have been included in the 440,000 Placeshapers HA only figures.
In fact the above totals up to 782,000 or so supported or sheltered housing units and if the 28% increase in costs between December 2002 (Golden Cut) and April 2003 in the Platinum Cut equals a 28% increase in the number of units then that is way more than have been lost in supported units over the past 13 years.
So while the numbers are still an unknown in precise terms there are way more than the 440,000 units in this Placeshapers article and staggeringly more than the figures mentioned in the other Guardian article and so the amounts of housing benefit that will be cut is staggeringly higher than the £68 per week for 50,000 allegedly only affected.
Is there anyone left on the planet who believes that refuge, hostel, sheltered and specialist supported housing will NOT close? Anyone on the planet who believes the additional £35 million of DHP will make the slightest bit of difference to the closure of supported and sheltered housing?
If so please identify yourself while there is still some mental health provision for you to reside in after you have been sectioned!