The provision of homeless hostels is under urgent attack by the Tories policy of denying housing costs to those under 22 years of age and despite the fact that residents will be exempt while in a homeless hostel
Every homeless hostel that currently admits those under 22 needs to URGENTLY;
– have a meeting with every local authority homeless department
– with every funder of their hostels and,
– with every referral agent to their hostels
… as this one policy, issued without any prior impact assessment and with the shortest possible notice of just 28 days, fundamentally kills the homeless hostel model!
Why does it kill the homeless hostel model?
The model and indeed the purpose of homeless hostels is critically short-term first stage resettlement with at least one further stage in (with a variety of forms of) ‘move-on’ or second stage provision. This policy denies payment for housing costs in move-on and thus undermines the entire homeless hostel model.
IF hostel providers continue to admit 18, 19, 20 and 21 year olds and these residents can’t move on or at best have greater difficulty in moving on then the average length of stay (ALOS) at the hostel increases and the average length of stay is THE most critical factor in all homeless hostel provision.
Take the example of a 40 bed homeless hostel with a now average length of stay of 3 months.
That hostel has a yearly throughput of 160 homeless persons as each of the 40 rooms has 4 persons per room per year.
When the average length of stay increases to 6 months each of the 40 hostel rooms only accommodate 2 persons per year giving a throughput in yearly capacity of just 80 homeless persons.
When you double the average length of stay you halve the capacity of the service and as this policy means 18 to 21 year olds will stay longer in a hostel then more and more homeless provision is needed.
Also when you double the average length of stay you need double the hostel provision to deal with the same number of homeless persons.
One further significant consequence of the average length of stay increasing is funding and specifically local authority commissioners will pull the funding plug for homeless hostels.
Some bean-counter in the finance department of the local authority who only looks at numbers will say why has Hostel A only accommodated half of what it did last year? That service must be failing so we will pull the plug on the scarce support funding we have and give it to a better service in some other area of supported housing – and the hostel closes.
That scenario is all too common and far from hypothetical and when another service that is perceived by the LA budget holder as more deserving than a single homeless hostel, which in every local authority perception is just about ANY other type of service, pulling the plug becomes so much more likely.
When we have the primacy of the LA commissioning model that we have had ever since 2003 when Supporting People moved into its steady state period taking money away from non deserving services such as single homeless hostels became rife and numbers of single homeless units fell from 46,000 down to around 36,000 today which is a greater than 20% reduction.
There is every reason to expect the same will happen again with the LHA maxima policy which gives even greater funding levels to LA commissioners and with far less even no constraints on how they remodel, recommission or decommission any supported housing service.
Yet before we get to 2019 and the LHA maxima cap this policy of denying 18 – 21’s social security for housing costs kicks in from 4 weeks time ensuring that by 2019 there are many fewer homeless hostels and by consequence a much smaller supported housing pot of money to be re-allocated by the LA commissioners for all supported housing services post 2019!
What if hostel providers refuse to accommodate 18 – 21 year olds?
Logically single homeless hostel providers should refuse for the sake of their own financial survival – and yes just writing that is truly abhorrent though undeniably true!
That assumes that hostel providers are able to refuse and ever since 2003 we have seen control wrested away from each hostel and given to gateway type services run by councils thus LA commissioners now tend to control who is referred to each hostel and often this referral arrangement is part of any support funding contract and thus outside of the control of each individual homeless hostel.
IF homeless hostel providers want to increase their minimum age of admission to 22 they can do so yet they will incur the wrath of the local authority who will then respond by taking away any support funding contracts – hence why every single homeless hostel provider has to have urgent meetings with every local authority because of this policy.
There are also some very nuanced aspects to this policy such as it will direct create additional homelessness for young people still living at home give their parent(s) non dependant deductions (NDD) in their housing benefit and these adult children are unable to leave home as they will not receive any housing costs payment …. unless they earn enough to self pay all of their rent … and no landlord social or private will take that risk and give them a rented property!
For example a 21 year old earning the minimum wage that no landlord will grant a tenancy to and is thus forced to stay in the family home could see his parent(s) get a reduction in their housing benefit of £75.60 per week with the Non Dependant Deduction and thus put the parent(s) at risk of eviction.
The NDD for them not working is a £14.65 deduction in the parents housing benefit and thus this policy incentivises 21 year olds NOT to work!!!
Get a job son and we will evict you but you’ll have nowhere to live as no landlord will take you on!!
To take stock so far this policy will:
- Close existing hostels
- Create a need to double the need for hostels
- Reduce the overall capped LHA maxima pot for all supported housing
- Incentivises young people NOT to work
Care to look a bit deeper (and pun deliberately intended!) Care leavers are exempt we are told yet what is a care leaver and when do they stop becoming one?
Very few care leavers still retain that title that gives them rights for social services to have to continue to fund their housing needs. Single homeless hostels are full of former care leavers, that is those who have been in care yet dropped like the proverbial hot potato by social services shortly before their 16th birthday so that social services no longer have duties towards them. The vast majority of ‘care leavers’ are not exempt under this policy yet they still have all the baggage associated with the UK’s abysmal care system and require the support that hostels provide.
Homeless hostels are far more than just a roof and they provide hugely important support services to many vulnerable people male and female. Threaten hostel provision as this insane policy does and what takes its place? Nothing is the answer and there is no capital or revenue funding to develop new models of supported housing to cater for the huge complexity of support needs they currently cater for.
I have tried to write this without swearing but the shit really is going to hit the fan in a huge way when it comes to this policy which will will increase the need for it yet close existing provision down and the old expression of you will never know what you miss until its gone rears its ugly head.
Single homeless hostels and purpose
I have worked in, managed, managed the managers, advised, got funding for, stopped funding being taken away from hostels for well over 20 years. I have also trained hostel staff which included a simple exercise going round the table stating the alphabet of support needs they deal with from A to Z and then start again.
Under “A” alone we see abuse, addiction, adoption, abandonment, attachment, abortion, alcohol, anorexia and many more support issues. Homeless hostels don’t just put a roof over someone’s head, they prepare the resident for being able to manage their own tenancy.
The vast majority of single homeless hostel residents enter the service with their heads so far up their own backsides with 1, 2, 5 or 20 identifiable support needs that need to be addressed, defeated, constrained, supported and considered before they are able to take on a tenancy of their own however independently or semi independently.
This is what support means in a homeless hostel and hostel providers never get the credit they deserve for dealing with such a huge range of often interrelated complex support needs and this support is rarely recognised by any person or agency outside of those who work there including social workers, probation officers, health professionals and especially LA commissioning bodies.
When these ‘professionals’ come out with this denial of correlation they deserve the ODFO response! (Oh Do F*ck Off! or even the ODFTFO one of Oh Do F*ck The F*ck Off response)
Once hostel provision reduces in numbers of units and / or capacity which this policy will inevitably mean all of that support goes to and fewer and fewer who need that support will get it. Support is preventative as it prevents support need becoming much more costly care need and it prevents offending, re-offending, substance misuse take up or continuation and the 18 year old resident who desperately wants to find out who their birth mother was and why their mother abandoned them by putting them into care that has ‘head-fucked’ them ever since they can remember and caused the inevitable abuse they suffered while in a care home … and that is describing very mildly a very common pen picture of the average 18 – 21 year old in a homeless hostel.
There is a very high proportion of young single homeless residents who are incredibly fucked-up and the ONLY place they can get any help or support is that hostel service. So once these hostels close, reduce in number, reduce in accessibility by the horrible phrase of bed-blocking as residents can’t move on so any more are denied such support.
Those who will be lucky to still get such support will then have to deal with the institutionalisation that even the best equipped and managed hostels will become because the length of stay there increases significantly with this policy. Single homeless hostels even those which are superbly equipped and managed are always one tiny incident away from becoming a very dangerous powder keg, one little ‘kick-off’ from one tiny incident creates an extremely dangerous place to live.
The boredom of being ready to move on and having the confidence and skill set to deal with independent living having addressed and overcome many ‘demons’ to see the light at the end of that tunnel switched off by this insane policy of denying their rent being paid if they do move on flicks that ‘kick-off’ switch with a sledgehammer!
The police need to be called and quickly and be ‘tooled-up’ to quell the powder keg that has been ignited … and then we see the repercussion of ignorant or feeble minded commissioners who are told by their councillors to close the service down as I don’t want that type of service in my ward.
Hyperbole reader? It’s not and maybe one day I will tell you in detail and with all documentation to prove how a homeless hostel was shut down by text message at 1pm; a text message out of courtesy claimed the councils finance director with the ‘courtesy’ being that it would be the front page headline in the local evening newspaper no less and this was the one and only communication on that decision to the hostel provider.
When hostels close or have their capacity reduced nobody knows or records what happens to those many vulnerable people who are refused access or have to go elsewhere as every agency whether social services, probation or homeless department says we have no duties towards these vulnerable persons. The same ‘professionals’ then deny any correlation with closures and reduced hostel capacity with an increase in rough sleeping or petty theft or other criminality or increased presentations at A&E departments or longer waiting lists for detox and rehab units or more begging on the streets and greater fears from the local populace on safety perception.
So reader I will conclude and leave you with this thought. When from four weeks time you begin to physically witness and see more rough sleepers and more begging in your town and when you read about more and more petty theft and not so petty criminality increasing in your town or city and when you are aghast that your neighbour has kicked out her 21 year old son or daughter or similarly outraged that your son or daughter or niece or nephew has got off their backside and got a job but can’t find anywhere at all to live even though they have done what is expected of them and that they want to get on in life but are denied this … etc, etc, etc, … you will know who and what caused all of this won’t you?!