Three of Scotland’s largest housing associations have joined together to urge the Scottish Government to find a long-term solution on how to fund supported housing to better meet the challenge of an ageing population and help with better integration of health and social care services across the country.
In a briefing document published on 27 February, housing associations Bield, Hanover and Trust (BHT) expressed their concern that changes to the benefits system could lead to a reduction in services for those in enhanced housing management, retirement, sheltered and very sheltered housing, as well as block the supply of older persons supported housing across Scotland.
BHT have also called for clarity around short-term funding for this type of accommodation.
Under proposed changes to the benefits system, Housing Benefit will be capped at the level of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) which was established to control Housing Benefit for rent levels in the private sector. BHT believe a blanket approach applying LHA to public sector rents will have severe and long-lasting consequences for older people, including:
• property rental payments to housing associations being capped;
• loss of income and a failure to cover essential staffing costs in sheltered, very sheltered, retirement and enhanced housing management services;
• supported housing developments becoming unaffordable and forced to close or converted to general needs housing;
• lack of confidence by lenders and lack of investment to provide new supported housing in the future with immediate effect;
• a resultant block on the supply of older persons supported housing
• Ultimately, creating a major set-back for older people and the national policy initiative for closer working between health and social care.
BHT estimate that the impact in their properties alone would be:
• 8547 tenants affected
• A gap of £16.3m per year in funding of rent charges above the LHA
• Threat to the current status of 303 developments across Scotland
• 1122 jobs at risk due to required service redesign
• A loss of key skills which are often difficult to recover.
The LHA is regionally based and is set by the Scottish Government.
Whilst there have been commitments given that a ‘top up’ fund will be made available for supported housing, the lack of certainty over the funding arrangements presents a major risk for Bield, Hanover and Trust, creating short-falls which could result in the reduction in the provision of supported housing. This would put significant additional pressure on local acute services, already operating at breaking point in many areas.
BHT have set out a 5-point plan to solve these and begin to plan effectively for the future:
1. Provide certainty around ‘top up’ funding levels and timescales.
2. Clarity around definition of what constitutes supported housing.
3. Detail on provision of 50,000 new homes to ensure adequate supply of supported housing.
4. More effective working with health and social care Integrated Joint Boards (IJBs) and better sharing of best practice.
5. Establishment of a commission to examine long-term funding of supported housing.