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……