Homelessness and women’s refuge providers slam government funding plans

(Yesterday, 31st October 2017, Inside Housing magazine published the following report by Sophie Barnes on the government’s proposal for the future funding of supported housing services)

Homelessness accommodation and women’s refuge providers have branded government plans for the future funding of short-term accommodation a “step backwards”.

Today the government set out its proposals for the future of supported housing funding. This includes a plan to fund short-term accommodation through a ringfenced fund held by councils. The government had planned to fund all supported housing through this route but backtracked when this proposal met with severe criticism from the sector.

Homelessness accommodation and women’s refuge providers have said this funding approach will lead to insecurity in the sector and fewer providers will invest in new accommodation, with the sector dependent on short-term grants.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “The government’s proposed reforms to supported housing will dismantle our national network of lifesaving refuges and put the lives of women and children trying to escape domestic abuse at risk…If pursued, the reforms will result in a postcode lottery of domestic abuse support services with further refuges being forced to close their doors and more women and children being turned away from the lifesaving support they offer. Without a safe space to escape to, more women and children’s lives will be lost to domestic abuse.”

Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England and Wales, which provides nearly 11,000 beds for homeless young people, said: “The response to the supported housing consultation was a long time coming and can only be seen as a step backward. It is extremely disappointing that the government has not taken on board some of the most crucial recommendations made by sector experts.

“The government’s suggested approach to dealing with ‘short-term’ supported housing will mean no security within the sector and lead to fewer providers investing and building new and additional accommodation going forward.
“The sector will now be dependent on short-term grants and living under the threat of the ringfenced funding being lifted at any time, as it was in the past with supported people funding.”

Andy Winter, chief executive of Brighton Housing Trust, which provides homelessness accommodation, said: “What has been announced today has the potential to be even worse for specialist supported housing.

“The grant will be a finite pot and while it might initially reflect the current spend on specialist supported housing, its value will be eroded in double quick time by administering authorities taking out their costs.”

Mr Winter also said it is “highly unlikely” that the funding paid through councils will match the Consumer Price Index plus 1% rent deal other housing providers will benefit from post-2020.

Providers are concerned that the fund will not remain ringfenced, as happened with the Supporting People programme where the ringfence was removed and the funding reduced.

However Lord Gary Porter, chair of the Local Government Association, said: “Today’s announcement demonstrates that the government rightly sees councils as crucial when it comes to providing supported housing for some of their most vulnerable residents. Ensuring that no cap will be applied to housing benefit, and that funding will be kept at current levels for short-term accommodation, is a hugely positive first step towards putting all supported housing on a more secure footing.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government has been approached for comment.

(Please see my full response – ‘Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire’  – posted on this blog yesterday)

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