Supported Housing Funding — [Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:57 pm on 10th October 2017.

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Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney 3:57 pm, 10th October 2017

I am grateful, Sir Edward, for that timely advice. I will now move on to my three suggestions for ways forward.

My first proposal is that the Government should give full and serious consideration to adopting the recommendations made by the Communities and Local Government and the Work and Pensions joint Select Committee; it has made its case well. Under the auspices of Lord Best, Housing and Care 21, Riverside, the Home Group and Hanover Housing have analysed data from approximately 43,000 supported housing and older people’s tenancies across the UK, and concluded that a supported housing allowance proposal represents a viable and workable approach. Although I recognise that the Government have to study that analysis closely, this proposal could be a sensible way forward.

Secondly, it is important that the Government examine very closely the impact of universal credit on the supported housing sector, particularly as the rollout is due to be ramped up in the next few weeks. Universal credit in its current form is in many respects incompatible with supported housing. The local housing allowance rate was designed for the private rental sector and bears no relation to costs in the supported housing sector. It also introduces levels of variation in funding through the benefits system across the country, which are greater than the variation in costs of delivering supported housing. This could leave parts of the country particularly exposed and it could skew development towards areas with higher funding rather than highest need.

Thirdly, there is a need for the Government to provide a revised timetable for working up the new funding framework with providers, road-testing it, carrying out an impact assessment and then introducing it. The general election has thrown the previous timetable somewhat off course. I anticipate that the Minister will advise us as to when the Government will respond to the consultation that closed in February, and whether they are still intending to introduce the new system on 1 April 2019. An early statement is required to address the concerns I have outlined, which have been echoed all across the Chamber, and to set out a clear direction of travel. It would be helpful to receive some indication as to whether a pilot or a shadow year—as the Under-Secretary of State for the Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend Caroline Nokes, suggested when she was Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions—might also be considered.

In conclusion, Sir Edward, I am grateful to you for bearing with me. It is important that we get this matter right, as the lives of many vulnerable members of society depend on it. I acknowledge that this is not a straightforward task, but I sense that, by working together, a partnership of Government, Parliament and the supported housing sector can put in place a long-lasting framework that will provide dignity, peace of mind and hope to residents. They deserve no less.