Supported Housing: Benefit

There is a clear need to get the cost of housing benefits under control, but it is also vital that the needs of the most vulnerable are met. These costs have continued to rise, even at times when the number of people receiving housing benefits has reduced. Unless the spiralling cost can be controlled, the system would soon become unviable, severely limiting our ability to support many of the people who need our help the most.

All parts of the housing market that receive public funding must bear a share of the need for greater efficiency, and supported housing is no different. However, we must also recognise that providing supported housing involves additional costs. Many of those additional costs might in the past have been covered through social services, rather than through housing benefits, but if changes to housing benefits are not implemented in the right way, many of the existing supported housing facilities would be seriously threatened.

I would like to thank the former Housing Minister, my hon. Friend
the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis), for the positive and constructive way in which he responded to concerns raised by me and other Members. The Government’s review of supported housing is a welcome opportunity to review this crucial issue, and I welcome this opportunity to give voice again to some of the issues that I hope the review will consider.

I would like to talk about one of my constituents, a Black Country Housing Group tenant who has had her life transformed thanks to first-class supported housing. DW was diagnosed with a learning disability and schizophrenia at the age of seven. She is also partially sighted due to cataracts in both eyes. At the age of 14 her mother died, but DW continued to live at home until her father also died. DW became a hoarder and was suffering from self-neglect; she was very isolated, did not socialise and became very aggressive. In March 2013, DW became very ill and was taken to hospital, where she stayed for one month. After a stay in a re-enablement centre, DW moved into Chapel Street, Black Country Housing Group’s supported living service. Here, she was provided with excellent support, with personal care, social interaction and peer support from other residents, as well as from a team of skilled, experienced support workers.

Through a working knowledge of DW and of her anxieties and needs, the staff worked with health professionals to deliver a support plan and to ensure that she got appropriate ongoing treatment for her eyes. I am pleased to say that she is now much happier, her mental health has improved dramatically and she is able to get involved in her community. She maintains her home and her tenancy, she undertakes household duties in the home and she is no longer at risk of self-neglect or homelessness. As a result of supported housing, DW has become much more independent, aware and involved.

DW’s case is just one of any number that I could have picked, but it clearly illustrates all the work and additional costs that come with providing that level of care, and that must be recognised through the social care and welfare systems. It does not really matter whether the higher costs intrinsic to effective supported housing continue to be funded from the housing budget or whether they are funded through social services. What matters is that those costs are very real and very necessary and that they must be met. I wholeheartedly support the review of supported housing and the commitment to a permanent funding solution for supported housing. We must continue to do what we can to reduce the spiralling costs of housing benefit bills, but we must make sure that the vital services provided to vulnerable people such as DW in my constituency can continue, and that means finding a way to pay for them.