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The Government has made positive reassurances about the future funding of supported housing, despite stopping short of extending its exemption from the looming Local Housing Allowance (LHA) cap.

Minister Marcus Jones said the Government recognised the “crucial” role of supported housing and that a workable and sustainable funding model for the future would be announced “as soon as is practical” after close consultation with the sector. Mr Jones, from the Department for Communities and Local Government, said he was keen for the long-term solution to remove the current uncertainty which is halting progress on new supported housing units.

From April 2018, housing benefit in social housing tenancies that begin in 2016 will be capped at private sector (LHA) rates. The benefit change was originally meant to come into force in April next year but following pressure from Bromford and the rest of the sector, the Government applied a one-year exemption to supported housing while a review is conducted.

Mr Jones was speaking during a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday (12th July) where he admitted the one-year exemption was only a “temporary fix” and that it had become apparent that supported housing was a completely different proposition to general-needs housing. But he failed to announce a further delay to the one-year exemption as media reports had suggested.

He said: “It is clear that supported housing is different and should be treated differently. The Government recognise the higher costs associated with providing supported housing for vulnerable groups, over and above the costs of general-needs housing. That is why it is crucial that we work across Government and alongside the sector and other partners to find a workable and sustainable solution.

“It is clear that supported housing is an investment that brings significant savings to other parts of the public sector, particularly the NHS. At the same time, any loss of provision risks significant disruption to service users, as well as expensive cost-shunting. That is, why earlier this year, we listened carefully to the sector and put in place the one-year exemption. That short-term exemption was welcomed by the sector, but we recognise that it is only a temporary fix, which is why we are looking at a longer-term solution. That solution must work for all parts of the sector.”

Although no specifics were given about what the future model of funding will look like, Mr Jones outlined the principles which underpin the way forward. He said it should protect the public finances, build in a rigorous approach to value for money and protect vulnerable and elderly people now and in the future.

The adjournment debate was secured by Peter Aldous, the Conservative MP for Waveney, and up to a dozen MPs voiced their concerns over the current Government proposals which would see the LHA cap applying to specialist supported housing. Bromford has warned that 58% of its 2,226 supported and sheltered homes would be affected if the plans are approved in their current form.

Mr Aldous told the House: “The development of new supported housing schemes using innovative models is of vital strategic importance to councils providing adult social care services. It will help them meet the care and support needs of an ageing population, making the best use of limited budgets. Such models provide people with greater independence, meet the support needs of individuals and are more cost-effective than residential provision.”

Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson added: “Welcome though the review is, what we need is a quick decision from the Government to put on a firmer footing the long-term sustainable funding of specialist housing.”

Responding to the debate, Bromford chief executive Philippa Jones said: “It is reassuring to see the recognition in parliament across all political parties that good quality supported housing saves public money as well as being much better for customers. I’m sure there is now a will to come up with a sustainable funding model to protect existing specialist services and underpin future new ones. But it’s crucial that this happens quickly now.

“Bromford is one of the few who are still actively building new retirement and supported housing schemes without capital grants. So far we’ve held our nerve and carried on but we can’t keep committing to new sites and building contracts unless we are confident that these new developments will be viable. Time is of the essence now.”

Read the full House of Commons debate here or watch the video.

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