Collectively, we have the power to create solutions, challenge policy and shape services – the very services that our communities are relying on. The role that local government currently plays is going to change massively with the proposed changes to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA).
Fiscal consolidation has made for some very difficult choices for both commissioners and providers. Yet mere survival provides short-term solutions. If we thrive, our communities will thrive too.
We know that approximately 650,000 individuals live in supported accommodation in the UK. And we also know that, if designed and delivered in the correct way, supported housing can and does enable independence. This means less people returning to hospital, less people dependent on care and, most importantly, more people enjoying a fulfilling lifestyle.
The election many have brought the process to a sudden halt but everyone involved in the commissioning and delivery of supported housing knows that we are on a bit of a cliff edge. Crucial to our future success or failure will be how the top up fund works. It could very well determine which services (and therefore communities) are surviving or thriving. And its allocation is just as important as the headline figure.
As a body ADASS represents varying social needs, trends and rent rates. Put simply, in areas where rents are at the lower end of the scale, and subsequently LHA is lower, more money will be needed in top up funds to ensure the viability of existing services.
So if we are to support all communities effectively, the top up fund must take regional variations into account, and safeguard against variations in demand over time. If this doesn’t happen, we’ll likely experience a rationing of services to only the most vulnerable.
I strongly believe that any funding model should be supported with a binding national commissioning framework. This would ensure standards nationally while still allowing for local flexibility. Failure to do this would mean outcomes are measured exclusively at local levels and do nothing to further drive the integration of housing health and care. We would survive, for a time anyway, but we certainly wouldn’t thrive. Crucially it would over time allow central government to whittle away funding levels. No one wants to see SP 2.0.
Failure to get this right could have devastating consequences for some of our most vulnerable. We all have a duty to find new solutions, to collaborate and share best practice. And we have a duty to make our voices heard. For human beings to thrive, they need to be given the best possible start in life. It’s the same with our sector. We need to be having these conversations and actively helping to share the debate, not merely sitting back and seeing what happens.
Rachael Byrne, Executive Director – New Models of Care, Home Group