Yet again the ‘great and the good’ of the UK social housing sector issue welcoming plaudits for another Tory housing benefit change – and in doing so they expose just how little they know of supported housing.
The knowledge deficit of how supported housing works and operates amongst the ‘great and the good’, the omniscienti and usual suspects of social housing beggars belief in their dangerous lack of knowledge of supported housing.
Let’s start with the Chartered Institute of Housing President Terrie Alafat who really should know so much better considering her key role in Supporting People who says for the CIH that is they who do everything brilliantly no less:
Oh dear!! The usual “we welcome” nonsense we can leave aside yet the real issue is the statement that “Exempting young people under 35 in supported housing from the shared accommodation rate is EXTREMELY WELCOME news…”
Terrie, the SAR exemption only applies when a resident is in a homeless hostel and not when they exit it or move-on. So this means that no young person will ever leave a homeless hostel as they cannot afford to. The issue is so so much worse when you realise this also applies to the 30% – 35% of childless and thus single women aged under 35 who enter DV refuges. Instead of being EXTREMELY WELCOME news this is a catastrophe that will close all single homeless hostels and all DV refuges!
I discussed this is more detail here.
Then let’s move on to the National Housing Federation and David Orr says:
David Orr begins with the ubiquitous “we welcome” guff and then says he is “… PLEASED … that the shared accommodation rate will not apply to people living in supported housing.”
So not as bad as the ‘brilliant’ CIH yet the fact he is PLEASED that this will still close all hostel and refuge says it all! To his credit he does say some issues around sheltered housing and rightly so yet so many NHF member housing associations are still under the mistaken impression that sheltered housing is supported housing (when it is not) and thus a great deal of sheltered housing will become non financially viable and will also close with this policy still!
Placeshapers – another group of housing associations were also quick off the mark in ‘welcoming’ this dog’s breakfast of a statement when they said they welcome it on Twitter, then delete that tweet and issue another tweet still welcoming it but this time with a caveat:
In fairness to some housing associations who are also Placeshaper members (and actually do operate some supported housing) they have said this statement is worrying.
However my real scorn goes out to Denise Hatton the CEO of YMCA England as her sycophancy and blithe ignorance of what this statement means to single homeless provision, i.e. the core business of YMCA England is staggering!
The DWP press release on this statement says this:
As I explained in my earlier post of yesterday and briefly above the exemption of the SAR when residents are in a hostel is not worth the paper it is written on as it means no resident can actually leave the hostel through move-on.
Further the limitation to the 1 bed LHA rate that Denise Hatton welcomes is also meaningless too as the national average 1 bed LHA rate is £110 per week and the average homeless hostel rent level is £180 per week and some £70 per week more.
While it has been promised that this typical £70 per person per week cut in housing benefit will be given to each local authority who in turn are then supposed to give it to the YMCA’s and other hostel providers that is not certain to take place at all. If the local council as the commissioner of such a fund chooses to give it to an alternative supported service then the YMCA hostel is defunct.
Even worse is that the many variants of the YMCA (and other hostel providers) homeless model is also blown out of the water as are all resettlement models irrespective of how many stages they have and even if they are dispersed models too. The current and past and all known single homeless hostel model(s) are history due to this statement – as is the DV refuge model(s) too and all other staged resettlement models.
There are some potentially radical alternative models that can work and interestingly and of course wholly accidentally, this DWP statement on the totally ideological LHA maxima cap could benefit some Housing First variants!
However, and for once I am actually giving some credit to the NHF, the real issue for housing associations and councils landlords is sheltered housing which they mistakenly believe is supported housing and will be exempt.
To oversimplify this, extra care sheltered housing is supported housing; some but not all category 2 sheltered housing (resident warden) can be classed as supported; yet the category 1 sheltered model with no resident warden and de minimis levels of support almost certainly will not be exempt … as it is not supported housing and it is also the most common form of sheltered housing.
The proverbial is going to hit the fan as I detailed in my post called Tory HB policy evicts the pensioner of last week and a rework of the same issue I stated as far back as November 2015.
Yet this is also were I get both professionally and personally angry at the ubiquitous “we welcome...” nonsense that accompanies any response to any government HB policy. If the DWP announced they were going to kill all children under the age of 5 living in social housing then the response from the great and the good of housing would start with we welcome…!
This government given an inch will take a mile and then some more as the fact that this LHA maxima policy WILL see the SAR imposed upon general needs housing and it was something that the Tories said would not happen when I first raised this back in March 2002 as the letter from Grant Shapps to me says:
Housing cannot lobby or campaign its way out of a wet paper bag. It’s great and good are far too conciliatory and far too tactful and never use fighting talk or say enough is enough and such positions can be taken and can be said tactfully and assertively. Give this government an inch and they take a mile.
What yesterday’s announcement did was allow government to introduce the SAR and to introduce the LHA maxima cap. The former will close DV refuges and hostels and will increase homelessness, rough sleeping and violence and abuse and the latter will close the majority of sheltered housing.
Both of these are disastrous for tenants, landlords and the social housing model … yet they have been WELCOMED by the great and the good in the sector!