Ukraine – not a tractor in sight ….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From an early start this morning – we are now in transit on the way to Kharkiv – in Ukraine – to begin a series of visits to schemes run by Depaul Ukraine. I am with three other members of the London Housing Foundation Board, and this visit is part of a longstanding relationship between Depaul International . Having joined the Board last year, it has taken some time for me to understand this key relationship between the two organisations – and I know that this trip will be both inspiring and challenging – based on this morning’s antics  – in equal measures!

The relationship with Depaul International has spanned the last 7 years, and the Board took the decision to provide ongoing funding for a number of reasons. The rise of Eastern European homeless people in London has been well documented, and through the LHF I have visited both the No Second Night hub in London and spent time with the Thamesreach outreach team, where the support and active engagement with this cohort has been a very prominent part of the service. The LHF see the relationship with the Ukraine, and with projects in Bratislava as a way of developing more concrete understanding of the London Homelessness provision, and at the same time learning the lessons that the development of new provision in cities with little or no existing services and finding ways in which this information can be shared.

Over the next 48 hours I will be visiting services working with homeless families in crisis, government homeless shelters, meeting the Head of Service for children in the Kharkiv region, visiting a number  of food shelters, spending time at a project for mothers with children in Korotich  and meeting and staff from Depaul in Odessa.   Will try and keep a regular update on these projects, as I know that there will be much to share – particularly with an eye on how Sitra will be developing our work in this part of the world over the next few years.

Sitra has recently been successful in securing European funding to lead a partnership of European wide bodies and partner nations in the development of core competences for housing support across Europe. I know this trip will provide me with a much better understanding of how the perceived practice and approach adopted in UK housing support can be applied across Europe. In addition, I will be looking to understand how the concept of coproduction exists, and where it will draw it’s comparators in other countries to think carefully about how to embed this practice in the European wide competences.

 

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Delving deeper into #SR2013….

 Few quick updates on this previous post re #sr2013…. 

Update

Sitra has produced a handy summary table of all the changes, with commentary from the sector – check it out at Spending Round 2013 – key points for the sector – Sitra 

News to Look into…. 

Integration of Health and Social Care - I am drawn immediately to the announcements in relation to #integration. In 2015-16 there is to be £3.8bn of pooled funding which will focus on health and social care needs of older and disabled people – and needs to be jointly commissioned by health and local authorities. This attempts to further drive the integration of these two areas, with undoubtedly a keen eye on the changes in demography. Positive news, potentially – and will watch with interest how the Kings Fund commission on integration will lead innovative thinking about how to best maximise such opportunities.

 There has been a growing focus on the need for housing in this movement towards integration – and the housing world has high ambitions for Jon Rouse, with his background in  both Local Government and the Housing Corporation to really recognise that integration without recognising the importance of home, will not be the answer. No doubt more detail to follow on this area – and will keep updated.

 Update

Following on from this, I was interested to read Jon Rouse’s reported comments from the CIH conference. He is quoted as revealing that this funding will be administered by the Health and Wellbeing Boards, and that it is conceivable that they might chose to look at investing in ‘supporting people like services’ Full note of this to be found here.

 £3bn capital spending on affordable housing – Interestingly this was in the chancellors speech, but no details are to be found in the supporting documents. Details around capital expenditure will be available tomorrow – and we expect to see more about how this will work then.

 Update

Full details of the Infrastructure spend to be found in the Treasury document here. Key news for capital spending for housing included:-

  • £3.3bn of new funding for affordable housing between 2015-16 and 2017-18 – supporting delivering of 165,000 new houses over the next three years (of note that the 201-14 review funded affordable housing to build 150,000 over a four year period)
  • £220m on Disabled Facilities Grant (for 2015-16)
  • £115m for supported housing to ensure that older people and disabled people can stay independent and live in their own homes for longer (for 2015-16)
  • £40m investment in tailored hostel accommodation for rough sleepers which will reduce emergency admissions to Accident and Emergency and improve mental health outcomes. (for 2015-16)

 Troubled Families programme has received a positive focus, and a longer term commitment to continue this programme. Good news in terms of recognition of the value of preventative services, but challenging for authorities as delivered on payment by results basis – and represents only 40% funding for the full service.

 Innovation funding for police forces to carry out more joint work – including working with authorities on new and efficient ways to prevent crime and ensure peoples safety. Depending on how this is framed, may be funding which could focus on domestic violence, ex offenders and services such as Home Improvement Agencies.

 News to watch out for……

 Local Government Cuts – Page 37 of the main document talks details the reduction to Local Government DEL (Departmental Expenditure Limit). This amount has been reduced by 10% and comes after the 26% cuts imposed through the last spending review. The details of what that this will include are not available yet. It is only when the detail of this becomes available that detailed information about areas such as Supporting People and Homelessness grant will emerge. The timescale for any discussion around this is not available.

 Welfare Reform – Further reforms to welfare for claimants of job seeking benefits. There are a number of changes announced which may impact on those most vulnerable job seekers – including the notion of upfront work search, weekly rather than fortnightly visits to job centres, all claimants subject to conditionality to verify their claim every year, and requiring all claimants whose spoken English is a barrier to work to improve their English language skills. There is no detail yet about how these reforms will be implemented, but the pressure and anxiety already caused by reforms may be increased by these additional requirements. It is also likely to put additional pressure on the support worker time, and will remain to be seen whether a sanctions based approach might be applied. 

Departmental Cuts – Every department bar Health, International Development and the Single Intelligence Account (?) is on the receiving end of departmental cuts ranging between 1 and 10%. Eric Pickles has led the way with DCLG, and has cut 10% of the departmental budget. 

The Spending Review Document can be found https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/spending-round-2013-documents

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Spending Review 2013 – Thoughts so far…..

Fresh from absorbing the public pronouncement on the spending review – just having a quick first trawl through the documents to see how the review sets the tone for housing, care and support going forward.

News to Look into….

Integration of Health and Social Care - I am drawn immediately to the announcements in relation to #integration. In 2015-16 there is to be £3.8bn of pooled funding which will focus on health and social care needs of older and disabled people – and needs to be jointly commissioned by health and local authorities. This attempts to further drive the integration of these two areas, with undoubtedly a keen eye on the changes in demography. Positive news, potentially – and will watch with interest how the Kings Fund commission on integration will lead innovative thinking about how to best maximise such opportunities.

There has been a growing focus on the need for housing in this movement towards integration – and the housing world has high ambitions for Jon Rouse, with his background in  both Local Government and the Housing Corporation to really recognise that integration without recognising the importance of home, will not be the answer. No doubt more detail to follow on this area – and will keep updated.

£3bn capital spending on affordable housing – Interestingly this was in the chancellors speech, but no details are to be found in the supporting documents. Details around capital expenditure will be available tomorrow – and we expect to see more about how this will work then.

Troubled Families programme has received a positive focus, and a longer term commitment to continue this programme. Good news in terms of recognition of the value of preventative services, but challenging for authorities as delivered on payment by results basis – and represents only 40% funding for the full service.

Innovation funding for police forces to carry out more joint work – including working with authorities on new and efficient ways to prevent crime and ensure peoples safety. Depending on how this is framed, may be funding which could focus on domestic violence, ex offenders and services such as Home Improvement Agencies.

News to watch out for……

Local Government Cuts – Page 37 of the main document talks details the reduction to Local Government DEL (Departmental Expenditure Limit). This amount has been reduced by 10% and comes after the 26% cuts imposed through the last spending review. The details of what that this will include are not available yet. It is only when the detail of this becomes available that detailed information about areas such as Supporting People and Homelessness grant will emerge. The timescale for any discussion around this is not available.

Welfare Reform – Further reforms to welfare for claimants of job seeking benefits. There are a number of changes announced which mayimpact on those most vulnerable job seekers – including the notion of upfront work search, weekly rather than fortnightly visits to job centres, all claimants subject to conditionality to verify their claim every year, and requiring all claimants whose spoken English is a barrier to work to improve their English language skills. There is no detail yet about how these reforms will be implemented, but the pressure and anxiety already caused by reforms may be increased by these additional requirements. It is also likely to put additional pressure on the support worker time, and will remain to be seen whether a sanctions based approach might be applied.

Departmental Cuts – Every department bar Health, International Development and the Single Intelligence Account (?) is on the receiving end of departmental cuts ranging between 1 and 10%. Eric Pickles has led the way with DCLG, and has cut 10% of the departmental budget.

The Spending Review Document can be found https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/spending-round-2013-documents

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Putting Supported Housing on the map…….

One of the key challenges that Sitra has reported on over the last six months, has been the status of supported housing under the changes proposed under the auspices of Welfare Reform. Much has been made of the DWP’s short term decision to protect, or not, the supported housing sector through the vehicle of exempt accommodation status, and since April there have been a steadily growing number of projects who have begun to be impacted by changes such as the Bedroom Tax, Benefit Cap and many have significant concerns about Universal Credit arrangements for helping claimants with rent.

What will the future hold?

Sitra has begun a small piece of research trying to add up the amount of Housing Benefit being paid to claimants of working age[i] living in supported and sheltered housing in a small sample of English local authorities.

The Department for Communities and Local Government, Department of Health and the Department of Work and Pensions are taking part in an advisory group overseeing the research. Full details of the research can be found here. We are working in a small number of authorities to map out the provision of supported housing, and are asking providers to supply us with a wide range of data about their services. This research comes at a critical time. In a letter from Lord Freud to Sitra shared in April this year, he reiterated their commitment to identify a long term solution to this situation and Sitra, alongside other partners in the sector, are very anxious that this long term solution is backed up by an accurate and comprehensive picture of what is actually out there.

How can you help?

We need your help now. In order to populate this map with as much accurate data as possible, we need to ensure that commissioners and providers get involved in the research – and this includes providers registered with the HCA, registered charities and not for profit organisations and Housing authorities. Without concrete information about what is out there then there is a very real risk that any localised pot does not meet the full costs of providing high quality supported housing.

If you want to know more about the work, or you want to make sure your services are included, then please contact one of my colleagues Geoffrey Ferres, Burcu Borysik or Rahima Begum Miah.


[i] The Government distinguishes between “working age” and “pension age” according to the current state pension age for women. This currently means asking whether a person was born before 6th November 1951.

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Money talks……

The Queen’s Speech created a mixed response across the sector. A few headlines related to Rehabilitation of Offenders (read the letter Sitra, NHF and HomelessLink sent to the Minister on transforming rehabilitation), ASB, Immigration and Housing, and important confirmation around Dilnott were picked up but many seemed to think it was not talking very much to the agendas we care about.  Sitra has pulled together some of the key items into a handy chart – as useful to see the next parliamentary session laid out for the future.

However, with all that pomp and ceremony over my mind turns very much to the issue of how any of this will be paid for, and critically to the issue of the impending Spending Review for 2015-16.

We know that the climate for this review will be ‘austerity’ heavy, and it is hard not to feel ‘heavy hearted’ about what it will bring for the housing support and those most vulnerable within the community. However, there are some strong points that Sitra will be reinforcing with  Ministers about what the sector has to offer, and how it important it is to continue to invest centrally and locally in preventative services.

Some of the areas to be raised include:

Visible Central Investment: Over the last two/three years, Ministers have been regular commentators on their central investment in Supporting People, and afforded it ‘relative protection’ in the last spending review. We would of course encourage the government in this round to take the same approach. There has been much talk and focus across Whitehall on how ‘preventative’ spending is a critical response to future changes – and housing support has demonstrated savings over and above the return on many other publicly funded services. Bodies including the New Economics Foundation have raised the profile of prevention and it is critical that the government sustains a central commitment to this work. The 2015-16 spending review must include an identifiable level of funding for housing support, or a central plank of that preventative community based agenda will be lost.

Outcomes: Delivering outcomes is another central tenant to government discourse. Supporting People funded services have been measuring in detail client outcomes for the last six years – and over two thirds of English Local Authorities continue to provide detailed evidence of how their local related housing support services are continuing to support individuals in turning around their own lives. This information continues to be collected by the Centre for Housing Studies at St Andrews University. The latest annual report and information about the collection of this data can be found here. This is a critical tool in understanding both the changing needs of clients, and how successful services are in meeting the needs of those individuals.

Data: In addition to the information provided to demonstrate success in meeting outcomes, the sector has always been rich in providing data on the management of services. In 2011 Sitra carried out a large consultation across the sector, which gave a strong commitment to continue to collect national data regardless of changes in ongoing central requirements. This month saw the launch of that call for national data – and we will be continuing to build a picture over the coming months showing performance management data alongside the attainment of outcomes. These are not services that are hiding their costs – they are upfront and transparent about how publicly funded money is being used to protect the most vulnerable in society. At a local level, providers and authorities have often worked together with clients to articulate the cost benefits of the services – and Sitra continues to support new approaches to this including understanding of social impact and Social Return on Investment.

Personalisation: Finally, it will be important for the government to recognise that this is a sector that supports its focus on personalisation. There has been a real shift in how particularly the providers in this sector have understood that the most effective delivery is that which is focussed around the assets and strengths of individuals – and is designed to support them in exercising choice and control. Creative, innovative responses to meeting client need demonstrate a sector that is responding to the changes in the environment and that is putting individuals at the heart of delivery and is valuing the contributions and skills of those in receipt of services. Services which promote independence, which enable individuals to take part in their community, which increase those able to take part in the job market and to manage their housing and finances are a critical part of the future. Personal stories such as recent case studies carried out with Bromford Support and Radian Support demonstrate these points to great effect.

There are of course many other critical areas t0 include – more to follow……

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Data day is here………..

Today is the day we have been waiting for in Sitra – the day that we launch the national call for housing support data for 2012-13. We are contacting all top-tier authorities in England to send through their housing support data for 2012-13. This data will be invaluable locally and nationally – and we are keen to get as wide a picture of provision across the country.

At a local level data on housing-related support helps commissioners and providers to quickly compare information and benchmark themselves on capacity, costs, performance and outcomes. This local data can also help plan investment and supports good commissioning in services for vulnerable people that meet local priorities. It is also useful to show those working in other areas like social care and health.

At a national level, housing-related support data helps show the impact of investment in preventative services for vulnerable people. This will help raise the profile of housing support, including to government departments and ministers.

We have been really pleased by the positive response to the sector whilst we have been piloting the national collection tool – and if you want to find out what the new collection will produce – then check out the pilot sample and the demonstration tool at national data collection.  For the first time you can see data on spend aligned with data against outcomes and performance.

As authorities submit their information, they will be able to see their data come to life in a dashboard based format, allowing them to see the relative performance on different types of service, different client groups and different outcome domains. We will be telling the story of this data over the coming months, and want to encourage you as provider, commissioner or user of services to take up the call to data!

If you have any questions about the data, then we would be delighted to hear from you. We will be working with our partner agencies to ensure they are kept updated on the work, and would be very keen to hear of any thoughts and developments you would like to see as we move forward with this critical collection.

So – for the next two months – we will be on data watch. We hope you will join us in this great quest for critical knowledge that will remind and reinforce everyone about the critical role of good quality housing support services.

For more information on this and all things data – visit www.sitra.org/spdata.

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Exempt accommodation – Where are we now?

It is some time since we have been able to provide any update on what is happening with Supported Exempt Accommodation and how it is to be treated under the new reforms. As you may remember, Sitra produced a detailed flow chart and guidance to help providers understand what did and did not constitute exempt accommodation and a series of regular updated FAQs. Both of these can be found on our newly developed website here.

Since then, Sitra and other organisations have been heavily engaged in discussions with both DCLG and the DWP to try and identify a solution to the gulf between stated intention – ie to remove the housing costs of supported exempt accommodation from Universal Credit in the short term – in order that a long term solution to how the housing costs could be paid in the future.

Late last night (4th April 2013) Sitra received a letter from Lord Freud restating his commitment to identify a solution and some of the key parts of the letter are noted in this blog:-

“It has recently been brought to our attention that much of the existing provision does not meet the precise definition of supported ‘exempt’ accommodation. This has, understandably, caused concern amongst providers.

 We would like to make clear our intention to protect providers from any unintended consequences. For example, we wish to protect refuges and hostels where care is provided by or arranged through a ‘managing agent’ rather than the landlord. Such arrangements may not meet the precise definition of exempt accommodation but in all other ways the provision is identical to that which does”

In the letter, Lord Freud refers to his intention being focussed on taking supported accommodation outside of Universal Credit. However, this is not the only concern. The letter makes it apparent that there is nothing immediate going to happen to sort out the ‘unintended consequence’ of the current situation. However, for projects affected by the bedroom tax, the consequences are being felt already. By the end of September, the household benefit cap will also have been rolled out beyond the four London boroughs it is currently being tested in. Time is not on Lord Freud’s or our side. We are aware that some supported housing projects are already being affected by the size criteria – and some of those include refuges and exactly the kind of projects that the DWP has been so vocal in stating their support for.

Although it is of note that alongside this letter, earlier in February the DWP also issued an urgent bulletin to Housing Benefit departments on this issue. The circular HBCTB/U1/2013.highlighted concerns raised by providers that HB departments were interpreting the new requirements to include the numbers of exempt accommodation in the housing benefit extract as a rationale to review previous claims and make adjustments to accommodation. This is of course concurrent with what Lord Freud’s current letter is saying – in a sense that he was anticipating that this concession to supported housing would not generate change within the sector. Later on in his letter he states:-

“Finally, I would like to use this opportunity to assure you that I am determined that our reforms will maintain a viable supported housing sector”

 In other parts of the letter he talks about the need to ‘develop workable solutions’ and it is apparent that whilst he is acknowledging the challenge inherent in the current definition for managing agents – there are many other situations where the current definition does not include provision – which up until now has been treated in the same way as accommodation that does fit in. This is a complex area, and one where no ‘quick fix’ has come to the fore – either for the short term, or for the long term treatment of housing costs of supported housing. Without an answer soon – the government’s stated ambition to ‘maintain a viable’ sector have the potential to be undermined by the hundreds of  different HB authorities interpreting the current ‘guidance’ in different ways.

 

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