Read the report in the Eastern Daily Press (4th August)
The Government's proposed reforms to the rent system for for supported housing are having a “chilling effect” on investment in Housing with Care schemes in Norfolk, Norman Lamb has warned.
A letter to Mr Lamb from Steve Blatch, Corporate Director and Head of Paid Service at North Norfolk District Council, has revealed that the provision of new Housing with Care schemes in the county “has stalled” as a result of uncertainty created by the Government’s plans.
One of the schemes put at risk is in Fakenham, which would see 66 homes provided for those with supported living needs. The scheme has now stalled even though planning permission has been granted.
Housing with Care is supported housing which allows older and disabled people to live an independent life in their own flat, with a team of care professionals on hand 24 hours a day to provide support when needed. It offers a valuable alternative to those who would otherwise have to move into residential care or a nursing home.
Under changes announced by the Government, however, the amount of supported housing rent that Housing Benefit can be used to cover will be capped to the level of the relevant Local Housing Allowance (LHA) from April 2019. Rent reductions are also being applied to supported housing schemes, meaning that rents will decrease by 1% a year for the 3 year period up to 2019/20.
The Government has consulted on a new funding model under which local authorities would receive ‘top-up’ funding to cover the anticipated shortfall between actual rents and the LHA rate. While the outcome of the consultation is not yet known, there remain serious concerns that Housing with Care schemes – which have higher rents than general needs housing schemes – will no longer be financially viable.
Norman Lamb has written to the Housing Minister, Alok Sharma, to demand that the Government removes the uncertainty about the viability of Housing with Care, and provides the reassurances necessary to allow new schemes to proceed.
Commenting, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said:
“I am deeply concerned about the impact of these plans, which seem to be having a chilling effect on investment in new supported housing in Norfolk. Housing for Care is vital in allowing older people to maintain their independence when they would otherwise have to move into residential or nursing care, but this is being put at real risk by this ongoing uncertainty. No new schemes are proceeding and the viability of existing schemes has also been thrown into doubt.
“We need to maintain a strong supply of supported housing to meet the needs of an older population, so it is critically important that ministers act quickly to address this uncertainty by announcing that any shortfall between rents and the LHA cap will be covered by central government. It would amount to a neglect of the needs of older people if this situation is allowed to drag on.”