‘Inappropriate’ death of supported housing

The LHA (maxima) cap is inappropriate says a joint report of the all party working groups DCLG and DWP.

  • Inappropriate to close sheltered housing
  • Inappropriate to close homeless hostels
  • Inappropriate to close domestic violence refuges
  • Inappropriate to close down specialist services for mental health, learning disability, physical and sensory disability and every other form of supported housing.

It is a thousand times worse than inabloodypropriate!  

It is madness and the LHA (maxima) cap policy this joint report concerns will have unbelievably adverse consequences that will affect everyone and the report sneaked out today on a bank holiday here is contained in the wettest of wet paper bags but will never punch its way out.

The policy will mean more deaths from domestic violence, more death on the streets due to rough sleeping, more of our parents having to be put into a home as there will be less and less sheltered housing provision and more deaths among those with all forms of mental health, other disablement and any vulnerability with this policy.

The policy will place much greater costs on the social care system, much greater costs on the NHS and much greater costs on the police and criminal justice system.

None of the above is hyperbole, it is inevitability:  It is not scaremongering, it is reality. A cold harsh reality when viewed from the vulnerable person’s perspective as it means the hugely important preventative agenda that support gives in preventing higher cost and much more disempowering care is decimated.

Prevention is always better than cure and supported housing in the provision of support prevents greater care need and cost, greater social care cost and greater medical care cost.  That basic and incredibly powerful message is virtually absent from this report.

The joint report, itself unusual as it straddles the housing (DCLG) and housing benefit (DWP) departments, is pitiful in many areas and in political weight terms reminds of being savaged by a dead sheep.  It is extremely politically lightweight despite the all party groups having a very high level of input from supported housing providers.

It is and was doomed from the start with the acceptance of the Support Housing Review as its basis which for one critical example says 716,000 persons received support / supported housing in the UK in 2015.

I looked back at the old Supporting People regime and its numbers and in 2003 there were 848,813 receiving support, which is almost 19% higher than this 716,000 figure and in 2016 we have 6 million more people in the UK than there was in 2003. That suggests even more people will be supported.

Then last month the Family Resources Survey was released which said that the number of disabled persons in the UK had increased by 22% in the last two years – numbers which will not be included in the Supported Housing Review baseline report for this policy.  This increase will add to support service demand and to the numbers needing support and care and the costs of support is around 25% of the cost of care to the public purse.

The report’s timing is unfortunate as we are in a phase of nothing except Brexit is debated or even recognised let alone considered, yet the report would still be a wet blanket despite that context.

The major problem with this policy, consultation and report is that it is based on the notion that the costs of supported housing, specifically the costs of housing those who require support is neither cost-effective nor has scrutiny or oversight. That premise is fundamentally false.  It is, in lay terms, total bollocks as all such costs have in-depth and often line-by-line scrutiny of claimed costs on a reasonable, realistic and justifiable basis.

It is a very complex yet extremely well scrutinised cost basis and individual to each scheme or person as it needs to be under the arcane and often moot Housing Benefit regulations that apply to supported housing.

This same policy, the original LHA maxima cap policy, was raised in 2011 and promoted by government as a way of simplifying the complex funding regime for supported housing services in the HB regulations.  It was roundly rejected and the Tory-led coalition hastily dropped the policy like a hot potato.

This time around they promoted it not on simplification, but on the dual false bases of allegedly lax cost-effectiveness and lax scrutiny.  The sector and the MPs bought into these false premises when they should have attacked the claimed and bogus rationale.

That rationale should have been attacked and cut off at the knee instead of arguments made on the post code lottery arguments over LHA rates.  The government rationale may well have been we think that the planet Mars is populated by little green men so how do we find a way to prove it or not.  It was and is a wholly spurious premise to presume that supported housing costs are lax in their scrutiny yet the policy, consultation and this report try to tell us how we find or not the little green men on Mars!

Instead of collectively blowing the government premise out of the water we saw different types of support provider fight between themselves – the sheltered housing lobby versus the supported housing lobby versus the supporting living lobby … and within each of these three broad classifications further infighting with for example low level sheltered housing providers seeking to score more points than extra care sheltered housing providers.

This has seen the domestic violence lobbies be happy that they have been promised an as yet undefined different form of funding regime, yet as DV accounts for just 1% of all supported housing funding this was an easy concession for the government to make as 99% won’t get any special treatment.  This is all the more surprising when the timing is an election in which the older persons vote (i.e. sheltered housing in all its forms) is far more politically sensitive than the domestic violence vote … which shows how poorly the sheltered housing lobbies have performed in dissuading the government from this madness of a policy!

The 2003 Supporting People numbers put this into its true perspective with 565,000 sheltered housing tenants receiving support compared to just 4,800 being supported in domestic violence and abuse services.  Giving concessions however vague and holly lacking in any detail to 4,800 UK households is far easier than to 565,000 households and who are also part of the grey vote!

Social landlords fought this policy on very parochial grounds of self-interest – you can’t do this as it means future new buildings for supported housing is at risk, which ignores vulnerable supported tenants needs and both existing and future. The greater threat to government was not the bricks and bloody mortar and housing associations bottom lines but the facts the policy will see more hostel, refuge and older persons housing close down.

That was and is and always will be the greatest risk to any government, the personal issues and how such a policy will be perceived when the voters have no choice but to put Mum into a care home because there is no semi-independent sheltered housing provision available … and you will have to sell her house to fund that incredibly expensive care home too and that all your parents have worked hard for over the last 40 years is all gone to pay for having her spittle wiped and her incontinence pads changed!

Our Mothers and Fathers will have no dignity because of this policy they will just be a financial burden on the state which they will have to pay for out of all they have ever saved from their decades of work.  That is what this policy means and in reality it is the Mother of All Bombs inside that wet paper bag yet will never fight its way out!



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