Local Housing Allowance and it’s impact on vital services

The recent announcement to extend the Local Housing Allowance to include supported housing could hit services for older people, those with mental health issues, learning disabilities and homeless individuals trying to get back on their feet the hardest. 

The changes equally mean that the homes we find and offer young people  who are ready to ‘move on’ into independent living (16 to 24 year olds in particular), could find that they are unable to succeed in their aspiration to live independently as a result of the under 35s shared accommodation rate being extended to general needs housing.

Concern and conversation is mounting each and every day among Ruth Cooke (1)many of my housing and care sector colleagues, our customers and the National Housing Federation.  I would like to include our voice in this conversation.

We ask for this change to apply to working age tenants in general needs only.  We would like to see supported housing completely exempt, along with the further provision for some highly vulnerable younger people to be excluded from the under 35s shared accommodation rate.

Vital support services, and the ability for young people to move on into independent living, are at risk of disappearing.  This simply cannot be ignored.  Individuals that currently use our services will remain - but without a safety net.

We see real evidence of hugely positive outcomes for people; ranging from improved wellbeing and quality life, to customers move on to independent living. 

For supported housing services, these are older people, people with mental health issues, learning difficulties, and homeless individuals.  Let’s be clear, services for these individuals will close if the potential plans to extend the Local Housing Allowance to supported housing are agreed.

While we commend that extra resource has been offered through £70m extra Discretionary Housing Payment funding for 2 years, it will unfortunately not provide the absolutely necessary long term security that these services and vulnerable customers need.  Services will still close as the rental income shortfalls are also projected to amount to a great deal more than this across the sector.

And there is a ripple effect to consider too.

Part of this is financial.  It’s a false economy to limit supported housing provision.  This will result in further public expenditure through temporary accommodation - a more expensive and less safe option. 

We also know that our older peoples’ services prevent the escalation of care needs and health issues - in doing so they reduce unnecessary costs to local authorities and the NHS – and behind these numbers is very sad prospect of someone without the right support hitting crisis point and potentially finding themselves admitted to hospital. 

This is a far cry from a path to independence that supported housing brings. 

Each year we move many vulnerable people on – into independent living - and give them the support they need to succeed. The introduction of the shared room rate for young people in particular will mean that vulnerable people that aspire to succeed in their own tenancy will no longer be able to do so.  For us these are individuals that may have been involved in human trafficking, former rough sleepers, those with learning difficulties and mental health issues who simply want to enjoy an independent, dignified and happy life.

We understand the drive to help young people towards work and recognise that many working age tenants in general needs housing will thrive despite this change; we also see real evidence that some young people with complex needs will still require support and stable accommodation to realise their full potential.

This could mean more highly vulnerable young people having to live in the private rented sector, without the support they need.  This could result in poor quality large houses of multiple occupation and the social and environmental issues that come along with this.   

We absolutely commend the Government’s commitment to invest in affordable housing and drive to support people across all communities towards employment and we do support the LHA changes for working age tenants in general needs.

We ask for supported housing to be exempt from the proposals and to see the cap only applied to working age tenants in general needs housing, with provision for some highly vulnerable younger people to be excluded from the under 35s shared accommodation rate.    

Surely it would be very difficult to argue that these services and the impact they make on peoples’ lives cannot be described as anything but absolutely vital?

View our full briefing on the changes to Local Housing Allowance

25th January 2016 | Other news | News