A parliamentary statement today from the DWP Secretary of State Damian Green guarantees more homelessness, more rough sleeping and more domestic violence and abuse. It also assures there will less provision for those client groups too.
The same statement also means that the majority of existing sheltered housing provision is at acute risk of closure as it becomes non financially viable though I fully expect that will change as there is not a hope in hell’s chance of what is proposed for sheltered housing will come on stream before May 2020 such is the political sensitivity of the issue.
Rather than give complex argument as to whether sheltered housing is or is not supported housing upon which probably less than 2% of UK housing professionals will be able to follow, the discussion on this statement on the LHA Maxima Cap policy rightly focuses upon the Shared Accommodation Rate or SAR.
The statement says (a) the SAR will be introduced for general needs social housing in April 2018 and (b) the SAR will not apply in for supported housing at all and both these statements require huge scrutiny.
Definition: The SAR is a 37% lower level of housing benefit paid to anyone aged 34 and under who is childless.
In terms of general needs housing in social rented housing the SAR does not apply currently but does in private rented housing yet we have already seen one Severn Vale Housing Association ban anyone from getting one of their properties! Will the single female in Tewkesbury where SVHA took over the former council housing stock get pregnant to get a house which perversely is what the policy incentivises?
Back in March 2012 I predicted that the government would introduce SAR to social housing that caused a bit of a kerfuffle within UK housing with the CIH and the NHF saying it would never happen, yet it was obvious to me that it would and indeed the poor wording of the policy suggested this could happen. But hey I am just a Dystopian scaremonger aren’t I reader!
I wrote to Grant Shapps the then Housing Minister who replied that the SAR would not be introduced to the social rented sector (!!) and bear in mind this was some 4 months after the government had abandoned the original LHA maxima cap policy which this government revised in a worse form to include the SAR for social housing! I have appended that Grant Shapps response at the end here as it also says what the government rationale for SAR is among a few other pearls of wisdom!
Yet how the SAR relates to supported housing sees this statement today become the death knell for single homeless hostels and DV refuges and despite stating they SAR will not apply ONLY when tenants or residents are in such hostel-type provision (a refuge is a hostel.)
Because the SAR WILL apply when residents leave a single homeless hostel and leave a refuge it means that residents there cannot afford to leave a hostel or refuge if they are single and childless. This is just one general aspect and impact and let’s have a more detailed look at what is inevitable consequence as well as the inevitable ignorance of the DWP as to supported housing in this dog’s breakfast of a statement
SAR chasm – DV Refuges
Between 30% and 35% of women who enter DV refuges are childless and aged under 35. That is anecdotal from 17 refuges I have advised and I have also checked with others I have not advised and who all confirm this to be a valid figure. NB The DWP could presumably get detailed figures from the SP data formerly compiled by St Andrews University to confirm this.
So if 30% – 35% cannot leave or move-on from DV refuges because all they will get in housing benefit is the SAR which is on a national average £66.33 per week in housing benefit, then they will simply bed-block the refuge. Because of that bed-blocking then refuges will have little option but to not admit them in the first place – and that is said in practical business terms not moral terms obviously as of course refuges would be loathed to do this.
This SAR cohort could escape if they are working yet if they are working then they can’t afford the refuge rent – a catch 22 situation that the LHA Maxima Cap ideological guff exacerbates starkly.
Will this lead to increased sanctuary provision? I doubt it as that is extremely costly and whether we like to admit it or not, a key driver for sanctuary room provision is the protection of children as much as the adult female (and then what will happen with the case of ‘A’ that we are awaiting a bedroom tax decision upon from the Supreme Court is also a factor too) as well as the prohibitive cost of putting in sanctuary room provision.
Even the largely unsuitable alternative of a childless woman fleeing to a female single homeless hostel is not an option.
SAR chasm – Homeless Hostels
Homeless Link say the average homeless hostel rent is £180 per week yet even with the SAR not applying to hostel the average 1 bed LHA rate which then becomes the LHA Maxima is £110 per week and is a £70 per week per homeless hostel bed space shortfall.
Unless local commissioners can guarantee this £70 pppw in the thinly disguised re-invention of Supporting People this statement is promoting then single homeless hostels will close. Given that once SP moved into the ‘steady state’ in 2003 that saw locally commissioned services as this statement wants to return to, actually saw a huge closure of single homeless hostel provision from 2003 onwards then the return to the SP steady state system does not bode well.
Moreover, the single homeless hostel resident has the same SAR issue in that they cannot afford to leave the hostel because they will get just £45 per week in housing benefit in Sunderland towards the rent of their move-on accommodation!
UPDATE (16:40pm) In November 2015 when this LHA Maxima policy was announced I said it would be a £2.99 million per year cut to Liverpool’s single homeless services and they would close. Making it a £2.26 million per year cut in HB by exempting SAR from supported housing as in this statement will still close all of those hostels.
Back in 2011 I posted the chasm of vulnerability blog which in very simple terms reported on what the SP programme revealed in the steady state post 2003 period – that on the seven groupings of the continuum from the lowest support need to the highest care need it saw only the two polarities being funded while the 5 groups inbetween all fell into a chasm of vulnerability that went unfunded
The very crude table of the chasm of vulnerability I reproduce below:
This is what the DWP is planning to return to and the SAR client groups fall into the middle of this continuum and don’t get funding or provision. While we can differentiate in the age-old terms of deserving (e.g. single women in refuge) and undeserving (e.g. single homeless person in hostel) both such groups suffered massively in the SP steady state type system that the DWP wants to bring back.
This chasm of vulnerability was one of many major systemic faults with SP with the biggest being the knowledge deficit of and the personnel involved in such commissioning and the chronic levels of subjectivity involved because this was a part B exemption from EU tendering rules (and I could bore you rigid with dozens more faults of the commissioning of SP services such as funding used to prop up LA care deficits and how it is correctly viewed as the forerunner of Localism, that superficial construct that can’t work and so beloved by central government as it transfers blame from central to local government!)
Today’s statement is a Dog’s Breakfast that panders to the Tories need to save political face from an ideological smoking heap of turds that can’t even be rolled in glitter in the LHA maxima cap policy.
It will create more homelessness, more rough sleeping and more domestic violence and abuse as I barely touch on above and it will see much reduced provision in those areas creating a double whammy of more need and less provision at the same time … and conveniently blamed on local councils and not this bullshit ideological superficial claptrap of a policy.
Much more will come to light over this and I could easily quadruple the word count here from just a first initial view of what this means. However the one thing that is really disturbing is the likely heavy reliance the government will place on the IPSOS Mori review report as de facto evidence of current supply and especially future need for provision.
This report completed over six months ago and which ignores policies that have come to light after it finished such as the 5-fold increase in homeless families (or is it 10-fold?) that the reduced Benefit Cap policy will mean is an obvious case in point.
Without lapsing into anything that could be called conspiracy theory if this report has failed to see the SAR issues I describe above then just how good can it be at projected future need and provision?
Oh I better leave it there reader as I wouldn’t want to increase my reputation as a Dystopian scaremonger – and especially because some of the great and good will welcome this heap of shit in the usual sycophantic way – so I’ll leave it there.
The Shapps response from March 2012 that said SAR won’t apply in the SRS