Me, in full agreement with Tory think tank over supported housing? Seriously!!

The full weight of the supported and sheltered housing sectors should be behind the latest recommendation from a right-wing Tory think tank!!

That is a sentence I never thought I would ever draft, but I strongly maintain they should and go much further and proactively lobby the Conservative government to introduce this CSJ main recommendation in this area.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) is the think tank and was set up by IDS and now managed by his special advisor.  So I am also agreeing with IDS’s chief SPAD and no I have not been on the hallucinogens either!

The CSJ proposed that the LHA maxima cap policy announced in the Autumn statement – the one whch closes ALL refuge and hostels and extra care sheltered – should go ahead BUT with a new fully funded and fully ringfenced funding stream, that would have to be identical to Supporting People, to pay for the higher costs of running supported an sheltered housing that is now picked up by the housing benefit bill.

The CSJ recommendation is below:


We need to dissect every aspect of that recommendation very carefully indeed though firstly and in general terms, the CSJ is calling for the re-introduction of the Supporting People funding stream but with better safeguards and on a more secure legal and financial footing to make the funding of “support” a statutory issue.

This was something the original SP promised to do in the first paragraph of its first report, yet failed spectacularly to do and in terms of political point scoring this could mean IDS saying the Conservative’s are doing what the last (Labour) lot failed to do.  I have absolutely no problem with that at all.

Sod the politics! What matters is that we get to a secure position of the most vulnerable being guaranteed the support they need and deserve from a moral and societal perspective, and such a plan would also be the most cost-effective way of delivering that support for any government … IF conceived and managed correctly.

Back in the day I set up my supported housing consultancy HSM in 2000 and supported housing was back then and until around 2011 99% about the Supporting People programme.  We advised over 270 support providers across the UK and worked in the vast majority of local authority areas – and that’s when I began to rant on the old SPKweb discussion site that purely by accident made me a ‘name’ in supported housing circles when I said the freedom and flexibilities that excellent authority status made SP into 151 local schemes not 1 national one and made the whole programme a dog’s breakfast!

That made the front pages of some national newspapers and I was ‘hauled into’ the ODPM as was, now CLG, ever so tactfully of course, and then asked would I join the government’s SP team.  I refused politely as then, as now, the large financial package on offer would not silence my criticism of anything which would shaft the most vulnerable.  On a more practical level, the more I ranted the more work that came in and very nicely paid work too, which enabled a large amount of pro bono work to the smallest specialist charities in this area.

The most heard expression in all that time was, and correctly so… SP was wonderful in theory but a nightmare in practice. A new SP funding stream could be genuinely empirical and learn from the (many) original mistakes of implementation that SP had which were largely due to superficial stupidities and to local government commissioner knowledge deficits and proclivities.

The main superficial stupidity by central government was to give administrative control just to the 151 top-tier councils, many of whom were county councils who by definition had no housing stock or experience, yet they were given the responsibility to administer housing related support!

The second major cock up was that the Labour government did what the Tories did in the bedroom tax – they refused to define housing related support just as the current lot refused to define bedroom and that only leads to subjectivity an obfuscation and allows local council administrators and commissioners carte blanche to use highly superficial nonsense such as funding should follow the person that only served to close accommodation based support and move it to the floating or visiting support model that costs 23% more and delivers a less responsive service level.

To commission higher cost lesser quality services from a cash limited pot was amoral and economic madness but regrettably was typical practice.

It further allowed LA commissioners to make highly personal decisions and frankly oppressive practice as they determined that NIMBY services were ‘undeserving’ while in-house services that save LA budgets but increase criminal justice and health service budgets were fine and dandy.

It also allowed LA commissioners to make unbelievably stupid immediate term decisions on funding as a matter of course which only led to higher support needs and higher levels of support and/or care costs in the near future.

The knowledge deficit of LA commissioners was woeful and hardly improved at all from 2003 when SP began to its effective abandonment around 2011 – 2013 as LA’s used this still referenced and named SP funding stream to support other LA services most notably its social care deficits.

Support was never mandated or placed on a statutory footing whereas care has been for many years and so when the ringfence was (unbelievably stupidly!) removed by Labour in 2009, support providers lost their key funding stream as SP was diverted into mandatory care services and no longer into discretionary support services.

Below is a slide from the ODPM that says what Supporting People paid for at the ‘golden cut’ which was the position at December 2002:

goldencut by client grou

They all add up to almost 800,000 service users and the final SP count – called the Platinum Cut – saw an increase of 28% which took the numbers of vulnerable people supported in supported and sheltered housing to over 1 million.

That is also a significant piece of data in relation to the current LHA maxima policy as all of these service users will have had the higher levels of housing benefit as well as the SP funding – yes over 1 million of them – and now we see so many LHA maxima reports stating the totals who receive the higher HB levels and thus affected by the LHA maxima policy is 400,000 in sheltered housing and between 130,000 and 170,000 in supported housing to make up to 570,000 in total.

These estimates of up to 570,000 affected by the LHA maxima cap in supported and sheltered housing are way too low in other words and while for example single homeless service users have fallen from the 44,012 to 36,540 today many other vulnerable client groups have increased and especially in sheltered housing and the supported living model for those with mental health or disability support needs.

Yet what those figures also say is that the CSJ notion of this being cost neutral while ensuring that all support providers do not lose money is a non runner.  The idea of a new SP will cost more than now, yet will cost far less than the current proposal of the LHA maxima cap with no support funding stream and only £70 million of DHP over two years, which is unworkable.

Yet a new SP funding stream will reduce the significantly increased care funding costs across the country that we have now and for which the current government recognised as critical in the 2% council tax precept announcement in the Autumn Statement.

The reason that care costs have ballooned so spectacularly is as I stated above – the immediate and short-termism of LA commissioners in SP who stored up these much higher costs in the first place by refusing to fund what SP was all about – preventative support services that prevents higher care costs in the future.

SP has a huge preventative agenda and why it was so good in theory but a nightmare in practice was that it was intended to provide support to those with lower level needs in order to prevent those needs becoming more intensive and thus require much more expensive and much more disempowering care provision – Prevention is better than the cure and a hell of a lot cheaper!

Almost 5 years ago in September 2011 I blogged about this in a post called the Chasm of Vulnerability.


There were and still are 7 levels of care and support in a continuum of need from low level support through to a critical level of care need as above.  Once the SP ringfence was removed then medium level support and high level support was no longer funded which shunted these service users into higher levels of care need and into the higher need categories reading from left to right above.

The above were just some of the major faults with the old SP regime and largely due to commissioner ignorance and looking after themselves eg Hampshire de-registering 83 registered care homes in the 6 months before SP started to take advantage of the scheme and massively save on their own care budgets and numerous councils who had over 50% of their entire SP allocation taken up by 1 in-house learning disability service.

The CSJ recommendation needs to take account of the above and hundreds of other mistakes the old SP regime made, and they can be written out in the conception of a replacement support funding regime, but only after a great deal of consideration.  It would be worth it financially for government – whether Conservative or any other political hue – as it would produce savings for the public purse and would prevent the care funding crisis we have today.

We will always have a need for supported housing and an increasing need and it is and it needs to be an apolitical matter and one of cross party agreement as was SP in development and theory yet not in practice.

The LHA maxima policy as is will closed all extra care sheltered provision that sees a circa £180 public purse cost per week in housing benefit replaced with a registered care cost of £600 – £2000 per week and in some cases more. The LHA maxima policy as if WILL close all DV refuges and yet successive governments for decades have been convinced that every £1 spent on domestic violence service saves the public purse £13and that further highlights the cost effectiveness of supported housing provision.

The current LHA maxima policy is disastrous in economic terms as well as being amoral and a new SP type supported funding stream IS the most cost effective option to meet support needs.  As I said in opening I have no problem with the Tories introducing it and even if they want to use “Compassionate Conservatism” or any such pithy spin to go with it… (Oh ok I’ll never go quite that far!!!)

The entire supported and sheltered sector has had the door made slightly ajar with this CSJ report and they should be barging through it as one to make that recommendation a reality … as long as its design and implementation and operation learns from the mistakes of the original SP programme.

Perhaps David Orr cares to offer all the above to his new chums in the CLG on a voluntary basis.  If so I doubt the sector would even need 7 working days to vote YES and unanimously so if it is done correctly with the large dose of Humean Empiricism that is needed!

IDS & Osborne get the reduced HB bill they want and Greg Clark and Brandon Lewis get what they want to with supported housing being saved and more new build that they crave … now which bit of the starter homes farrago can we get the£3 – 4 billion per year from to fund the same level of support that SP did with £1.81 billion in 2003 ….



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