Independence...Integrity...Value

September 2016

Sep 5th 2016, 09:19

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26th September 2016

Following last week's announcement by the Department for Work and Pensions about the funding of supported housing (see last week's Blog below) I have written a briefing paper on the subject. It covers: The announcement of 15th September 2016; Analysis; The response of the sector; Implications for Scotland; Implications for Wales and The consultation. Your copy can be freely downloaded from HERE

A Director of Housing at a Housing Association in London who read the briefing paper on Friday has given me the following feedback for which I am grateful:

"That was a very useful briefing you did Friday, a good summary of where we are now and the remaining substantive concerns, thanks."

The funding of supported housing is one of the subjects that will be considered at our next seminar that is on 'Developments in Local Authority Housing Finance' and will be held in London on 4th October 2016. It looks in depth at current developments in local authority housing finance in England - especially the implications of the policies of the new government, the implementation of the Housing and Planning Act 2016, the vote for Britain to leave the European Union, the public finances, welfare reform (including capping housing benefit at local housing allowance levels and the impact on supported housing), rent reductions, sale of high value properties to fund the extension of 'right to buy' to housing associations, 'pay to stay' and new development. For more information or to make a booking please click HERE

Last week I went to Yorkshire to present an in-house session of 'All You Want to Know about Housing Association Finance'. The attendees said that the information provided was very relevant, the quality of presentation was good and that the training met their needs fully. They described the session as: Interesting, Thorough, Useful, Practical and Comprehensive. Particular comments included:

  • Adrian is very experienced and knowledgeable in this topic
  • Useful real world examples
  • The booklet will be a good source of reference to cement what has been learned today

If you would like to make an enquiry about an in-house session please contact me at Adrian.waite@awics.co.uk or 017683-51498

The book that accompanies 'All You Want to Know about Housing Association Finance' can be bought separately. It contains sections on: The financial environment in which housing associations work; Regulatory requirements including Viability and Value for Money; Income and Expenditure Accounts, Balance Sheets and Cash Flows; How Development and other Capital Expenditure is financed; Budgeting, Budgetary Control and Risk Management; Asset Management and Treasury Management; Developments in government policy including 'right to buy', rent reductions, pay to stay and welfare reform; The implications of the Housing and Planning Bill - including low cost home-ownership; and The future funding of sheltered housing and community investment. For more information or to order a copy click HERE

We have also published the September edition of the 'AWICS Wales News'. This edition includes articles on

  • Wales and Brexit
  • Welsh Government faces three-year funding reductions
  • Calls for Welsh Government to invest in Housing
  • Tax Devolution Budget Shortfall for Wales
  • Housing Benefit powers could tackle poverty in Wales
  • Six figure boost for more co-operative homes in Wales
  • Welsh integration of health and social care
  • Welsh Government consults on Social Housing Rent Standard and Guidance
  • AWICS holds seminar on Service Charges

Your copy can be freely downloaded from HERE

In previous blogs I have commented on the future of the Edenside Residential Care Home in Appleby. Last week Cumbria County Council took a decision to close it with Councillor Stewart Young (Labour), the Leader of the Council saying that:

"I recognise a lot of the members of the public have come here today and that it's not the decision they were hoping for, but we have to make difficult decisions. I can assure you that Cumbria County Council does take its duties seriously and hope that the Town Council and others will work with us to look at other options."

Cumbria County Council has also undertaken to develop a:

"Robust plan to address and support the future needs of older residents in Appleby and the Appleby area."

The Adult Social Care service across Britain is facing increased needs at a time of constrained resources and Cumbria County Council is not the only authority that faces difficult decisions. As mentioned here, robust plans are needed for the future.

19th September 2016

As I have discussed in my blog previously, the United Kingdom government has created uncertainty over the future funding of supported housing by announcing that from 2018 housing benefits will be capped at the level of the local housing allowance and that housing support services will not be funded by Universal Credit but through another mechanism. At the same time a review of the finances of supported housing was started.

Last week the government announced its proposals for the future funding of supported housing. The key elements are as follows:

  • All housing costs for supported housing will be met. Housing costs will be paid through the benefits system up to the local housing allowance level with a top-up paid by the local authority.
  • To enable this top-up to happen, there will be a transfer of funds from the Department of Work and Pensions to the Department for Communities and Local Government. They will then allocate funds to local authorities by a mechanism yet to be decided on.
  • There will be a ring-fence around the transferred sum and it will be strictly only available to pay for supported housing costs.
  • There will be no Shared Accommodation Rate in the calculation of the local housing allowance rate for tenants in the new system. The one-bedroom local housing allowance rate will be used for people under 35 living in supported housing.
  • The Government believes a different system needs to be worked out for short-term transitional services and it will consult on this.
  • Budgets will also be transferred to the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments to enable them to devise their own arrangements

The new system is planned to be implemented from 2019 and the Local Housing Allowance cap will not apply to supported and sheltered housing until then. From 2019 it is proposed to apply the local housing allowance cap to all claims in supported and sheltered housing with some exceptions including domestic violence refuges. The 1% annual rent reduction required by the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 will apply to sheltered housing from 2017 to 2019 with some exceptions such as domestic violence refuges.

This approach is not unexpected but leaves the following questions unanswered:

  • Will the total funds allocated to local authorities and the devolved administrations be sufficient, especially bearing in mind that need is increasing?
  • If funds are not adequate will authorities be able to top-up the budget from their own resources?
  • How will the funds be allocated between authorities?
  • How long will the ring-fence last?
  • Will there be sufficient funding for local authorities and housing associations to be able to provide the supported housing that is required including extra care elderly housing?

Experience with Discretionary Housing Payments and Supporting People may lead cynics to suggest that funding will decline over time despite needs increasing and that eventually the ring-fence will be removed leading to significant reductions in funding.

Our next seminar is on 'Developments in Local Authority Housing Finance' and will be held in London on 4th October 2016. It looks in depth at current developments in local authority housing finance in England - especially the implications of the policies of the new government, the implementation of the Housing and Planning Act 2016, the vote for Britain to leave the European Union, the public finances, welfare reform (including capping housing benefit at local housing allowance levels and the impact on supported housing), rent reductions, sale of high value properties to fund the extension of 'right to buy' to housing associations, 'pay to stay' and new development. For more information or to make a booking please click HERE

Our next webinar will be an 'Introduction to the Housing Revenue Account' and will be held on 29th September 2016. For more information or to book a place please click HERE

12th September 2016

Our seminar 'All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing' was held in Cardiff last Tuesday. I am very grateful to all the delegates who attended who came from both housing associations and local authorities. They said that the information provided was very relevant, the quality of the presentation was good and that the training met their needs fully. They described the seminar as interesting, valuable, enjoyable and useful. Specific comments included:

  • Many thanks for yesterday: a really insightful and thorough run through the service charges landscape which was very useful in framing my understanding of how the regulatory and legal framework governs it, and the public sector perspective was really helpful as well.
  • Invaluable opportunity to network with colleagues in other local authorities experiencing similar challenges
  • Very useful, good networking as well
  • Good, knowledgeable speaker

Our next session will be held in Leeds on 8th November 2016. For further information about this session please click HERE

I am also available to provide in-house training, advice and assistance with service charges. For more information about this please click HERE

A fortnight ago I wrote in my blog about Cumbria County Council, their strategy for providing housing and support to vulnerable and elderly people especially through extra care elderly housing and their consultation on the closure of Edenside Residential Care Home in Appleby (see below). Last week Eden District Council decided to designate the building as an 'Asset of Community Value'. An 'Asset of Community Value' is land or property of importance to a local community that is subject to additional protection from development under the Localism Act 2011. The Council's intention is to protect its use as a residential care home.

The government's proposals to re-introduce selective grammar schools and increase the number of faith schools are proving controversial. They are being put forward as ways of improving standards of education. However, I have my reservations. Grammar schools have never selected their pupils solely on the grounds of academic ability but have also selected on the basis of who are 'the right sort of people'. Do we really want selective schools where students are unlikely to come into contact with students from other social classes or different ethnicities or faiths? My preference would be to have schools that welcome students from all sections of the community and offer them all an excellent education including an understanding of the society in which they live. Most schools already do this and I don't think the government's proposals will help the schools that do not.

Our next seminar is on 'Developments in Local Authority Housing Finance' and will be held in London on 4th October 2016. It looks in depth at current developments in local authority housing finance in England - especially the implications of the policies of the new government, the implementation of the Housing and Planning Act 2016, the vote for Britain to leave the European Union, the public finances, welfare reform (including capping housing benefit at local housing allowance levels), rent reductions, sale of high value properties to fund the extension of 'right to buy' to housing associations, 'pay to stay' and new development. For more information or to make a booking please click HERE

Our next webinar will be on 'Scottish Local Authority Housing Finance' and will be held on 22nd September 2016. For more information or to book a place please click HERE

5th September 2016

I am writing this blog on the train while on my way to Cardiff prior to presenting our seminar 'All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing' tomorrow. This has proved a popular session and I am looking forward to meeting the delegates. For further information about the session please click HERE

I am also available to provide in-house training, advice and assistance with service charges. For more information about this please click HERE

Last week I wrote in my blog about Cumbria County Council, their strategy for providing housing and support to vulnerable and elderly people especially through extra care elderly housing and their consultation on the closure of Edenside Residential Care Home in Appleby (see below).

This week it has been reported that potential residents of a new extra care housing scheme, Bramble Court in Brampton (near Carlisle in Cumbria) will be given a first opportunity to look round it prior to its opening in October. The scheme offers 38 one- and two-bedroom apartments for rent to older people in need of adapted accommodation and includes a communal lounge, guest suite and hair salon. It is being provided by Impact Housing Association at a cost of £5.1million to which Cumbria County Council has given a £0.8million contribution. Rents will be £88 / week for a one-bedroom apartment and £104 / week for a two-bedroom apartment. There will also be a weekly service charge of £75 / dwelling to cover heating, water and electricity.

Hopefully, Cumbria County Council will be able to sponsor more similar schemes; but there are financial difficulties at present as I outlined last week. Principal amongst these is the government's proposal to cap housing benefit at the level of the local housing allowance that would make residents of extra care elderly housing unable to claim housing benefit to cover all their rent and service charges. In Brampton, for example, the local housing allowance is currently £81 for a one-bedroom dwelling and £94 for a two-bedroom dwelling. This would leave a tenant claiming benefits at the Impact scheme in Brampton £82 / week short in a one-bedroom apartment and £85 / week short in a two-bedroom apartment.

At the moment I am assisting a small housing association in London that specialises in housing young people with support needs with business planning. If housing benefits are capped at the level of the local housing allowance that would reduce their income by 36% and would render their current business plan unviable.

The Homes and Communities Agency has recently carried out research that has demonstrated that investment in supported housing saves the taxpayer £640million annually.

The government is expected to publish its report on the future funding of supported housing soon. It is to be hoped that it will recognise both the importance of supported housing for vulnerable people and its cost-effectiveness and propose a solution that will provide sufficient funding.

Our next seminar is on 'Developments in Local Authority Housing Finance' and looks in depth at current developments in local authority housing finance in England - especially the implications of the policies of the new government, the implementation of the Housing and Planning Act 2016, the vote for Britain to leave the European Union, the public finances, welfare reform (including capping housing benefit at local housing allowance levels), rent reductions, sale of high value properties to fund the extension of 'right to buy' to housing associations, 'pay to stay' and new development. There will be sessions in London on 4th October 2016 and Leeds on 11th October 2016. For more information or to make a booking please click HERE

Our next webinar will be on 'Business Planning in the Housing Revenue Account' and will be held on 12th September 2016. For more information or to make a booking please click HERE

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