UK social housing’s great and good’s strategy over the LHA maxima cap is one of worrying about jam tomorrow when there will be no bread left to put it on!
The focus on not being able to build new properties and yesterday’s debacle by going along with the BBC’s skewed and highly politicised news agenda negates the fact there will be no EXISTING supported accommodation left!
The sector has to lead on this agenda and take control of it and the strategy has to be to win the hearts and minds of Joe Public, yet the sector struggles unbelievably badly with anything that is public facing.
Simple messages are what the public needs and only what they will listen to and make a fuss over. Additionally these simple arguments need to be made over client groups that the public feels are deserving and cares about such as domestic violence and older peoples services.
Simple messages such as the policy means women and children fleeing domestic violence will have nowhere to flee to are needed and need to be kept as simple as that as the policy numbers demonstrate it will close all EXISTING refuges and then, but only then, makes newly built one impossible as they are not financially viable to operate.
The sector has to become politically savvy and use emotive simple arguments such as there will be nowhere for DV victims (not survivors) to flee. If you can’t flee will you always be a victim and not a survivor? Such simple messages need to be forced onto the very top of the agenda and the sector has to grab that agenda with both hands and force that simple message onto the general public.
Even though there are only just under 4,000 refuge spaces in the UK, a tiny percentage of all supported housing, it is THE most important argument and a better public-facing argument than the policy could affect a million older persons in sheltered housing. Once the general public is convinced, as they should rightly be, that any government is prepared to close all existing DV refuges then the policy is dead as a dodo.
The fact that the policy also closes all existing extra care (a concept the general public knows little about) and will close some sheltered housing are secondary concerns for the general public. Yet sheltered housing needs the same simplistic and emotive arguments that Joe Public will easily understand.
If your Mother becomes infirm and can’t stay in the family home then she only has the choice of registered care – Mum is being put in a ‘home’ – as the only alternative for her to remain any modicum of independence in sheltered housing no longer exists. The fact that Mum may well have to sell the family home to pay for registered care is also a huge public-facing argument.
None of those arguments are propagandist or hyperbole or scaremongering, they are all true and factual yet the sector struggles like crazy to get those simple and factual messages into the public domain. The “Oh we can’t be seen to be political” excuse is often trotted out by the housing sector and it is excuse not explanation – and it is a bullshit one that has to change and quickly.
The sector has to focus on simple messages for the most ‘deserving’ groups and has to lead on the agenda and frankly grab it by the scruff of the neck.
What about the “Undeserving” groups?
The sector is rightly worried that much of supported housing and indeed the ones most immediately at risk are what the general public perceives (wrongly) as ‘undeserving’ – the hostels for single homeless, ex and sex offenders, mentally disordered offenders and other NIMBY client groups. The quandary is these NIMBY and therefore ‘undeserving’ groups provide the easiest financial argument against the policy and so how can they be used?
The answer is in supplementary arguments to the deserving groups such as DV with which they share a key issue, that they are short-term intensive services in their purpose and the scale of the cut in homeless hostels proves that the policy intent of using DHP to mitigate is a ridiculous and unworkable one.
Homeless Link, in a typically thorough and correct yet none public-facing report gives that detail yet as is unfortunately typical fails to hammer the point home.
Homeless Link gives two key facts in its report that need hammering home with a sledgehammer.
- The average amount of current housing benefit paid is £180 per week.
- There are 36, 500 homeless bedspaces in the UK.
We need to add a 3rd simple fact that the average amount each of these 36,500 bedspaces will get under the LHA maxima policy is either (a) £67.35 if the resident is under 35 as this is the national average SAR amount; or (b) £111.84 if the resident is 35 or over as this is the national average 1 bed LHA maxima amount.
Hence if all single homeless residents are 35 or over then 36,500 of them will get a cut in housing benefit of £68.86 per week (£180.00 minus £111.84) and that is a yearly HB cut of £131 million which is also the minimum amount of HB that is cut. If all 36,500 are under 35 then the cut is £112.65 per week which is a yearly total of £214 million and the maximum HB cut.
The cut in housing benefit just to single homeless services is thus between £131 million per year and £214 million per year … and the government has announced it is providing just £35 million per year in DHP to mitigate the HB cuts for all supported and sheltered housing services and therefore the DHP as mitigation is a ridiculous proposition.
The housing sector is not using this argument and appears content to run the other DHP argument exclusively – that of how can any provider base its business plan on funding when it is discretionary – which is undoubtedly a powerful argument, yet not at the expense of saying nothing at all about the fact that the DHP notion and allocated amount is an ill-conceived joke that cannot go anywhere near meeting the cost of the Housing Benefit which it seeks to cut.
Government figures do not add up!
I explain above using factual numbers that the HB cut just to single homeless services is between £131 million and £214 million per year. Those figures are extremely reliable as their derivation reveals and one other key fact needs explanation.
Single homeless hostels are short-term services with an average occupancy or length of stay of no longer than 6 months. As such when the HB cuts actually begin in April 2018 it means all 36,500 in these hostels will have entered the service way after April 2016 and this means all 36,500 will face the cuts in housing benefit – all 100% – and so the £131 – £214 million HB cut will happen as all 100% there will be affected.
Yet the government says in the Comprehensive Spending Review Blue Book on page 119 that the first year (2018/19) ‘savings will be only £120 million and for ALL supported housing and sheltered housing services!!
The numbers are way off as you can readily see and even the OBR says they have a medium to high level of uncertainty over these government projected savings.
The numbers simply DO NOT ADD UP and reveal that the government does not know what the policy impacts are at all. Even with the most sophisticated data modelling IT systems that central government has the projections it gives for the LHA maxima policy savings to the HB budget are a farce.
The LHA maxima policy is an ideological policy that is not even deserving of the “back of a fag packet” label as all of the above shows, yet the two key issues with it are (a) it is not part of any legislative bill and therefore ordinary political options of challenge are not available; and critically (b) it is a welfare benefit policy from the DWP and is NOT a housing policy.
The LHA maxima is under the control of IDS at the DWP and supported by Osborne at HM Treasury who announced it in the first place. While it has hugely damaging implications for housing, the Secretary of State at CLG, Greg Clark, where housing sits has no control over it whatsoever.
As such any internal cabinet battle over it is one of the political lightweight Greg Clark versus the combined political heavyweights of IDS and George Osborne – a battle in which there can only be one winner.
This leaves the ONLY viable way to challenge the policy is to fight for the hearts and minds of the general public, and they will be outraged at having to put Mum in a home and outraged as there will be nowhere for ‘battered wives’ to flee to.
I could give you 10,000 words why the great and the good of the housing sector are not adopting this public-facing strategy that would win out and would get rid of the LHA maxima policy. Yet what is obvious is that NHF do NOT want to and what they are doing amounts to adopting a save sheltered housing at all costs but supported housing can wither and die on the vine one instead.
As per usual expect the vast majority of housing professionals who do genuinely care for supported housing and the claimed social ethos of social landlords be outraged at that and take it as a slur … and fail to even contemplate that Glorious Leader Orr and the NHF is selling all that down the river, which they are.
See the wood from the trees for once housing people and stop being blind sheep and for once see the reality of what is happening. Unless on a personal level you can afford to put your Mum in a home and don’t give a stuff about any female you know being the easiest of easy long-term victim…!