As a major provider of housing with care and support, Riverside has cautiously welcomed yesterday’s Ministerial statement (October 31), setting out proposals for a new funding system for supported housing.
The 52,500-home housing association is pleased that the Government has moved a long way from its original plan to restrict housing benefit to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates. Ministers have clearly listened to overwhelming evidence from the sector, and responded positively to alternative proposals put forward by Riverside and others.
There is still considerable detail to work through, however Riverside broadly supports proposals for meeting housing costs through the benefit system for tenants living in sheltered, extra care, and long-term supported housing from 2020.
However, deep concerns remain about the proposed localised funding system for short-term accommodation, which provides vital housing for vulnerable people including those that are homeless or fleeing domestic violence. This includes those living in hostels, refuges and safe houses.
The proposed new framework for short-term accommodation will affect the majority of Riverside’s supported housing. This provides homes for customers, many of whom have longer tenancies than are typically found in the private rented sector, where full entitlement to benefits remains in place. Riverside fears that a wholly localised and cash limited system, even if ring-fenced, would leave providers living from hand to mouth in a cycle of short-term contracts with little confidence about the future.
Hugh Owen, Director of Strategy and Public Affairs at Riverside, said: “There is much to welcome in the recent Government announcement and we stand ready to work constructively with Ministers and officials as details are fleshed out. We are definitely moving in the right direction, and appreciate that the Government has gone a long way to try and provide the reassurance that tenants and providers are looking for in creating a sustainable funding system.
“But we do have major concerns that an entirely localised funding route outside the benefit system for most of our supported housing, will fall well short of the level of long-term assurance we are looking for. We are encouraged by the Government’s promise that those who need this type of support will be entitled to funding through local authority cash, and look forward to seeing details of how this would work in practice. Providers need long-term certainty before making multi-million pound investment decisions.”
Hugh concluded: “Despite these major challenges, I think we will find a way through – we are in a good place with Government, and we share the same vision for the sector.”
The new proposed new funding framework for supported housing follows many months of lobbying and influencing work by Riverside and others in the sector.