Social housing 'should provide universal preventative support'
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government
Social housing should provide universal preventative support, says think tank
A new report from the think tank Demos recommends housing providers take more radical preventative steps to support social housing tenants.
Demos argues that whilst social housing has always been active in providing low level care and support, this has been focused on those with existing needs, rather than those vulnerable to the negative effects of the current economic climate. By acting to reduce these risks, savings to housing and other public services of up to £49,000 could be made per tenant.
The report Under One Roof recommends a cultural shift among housing providers, so that the current ‘all or nothing’ approach where general needs tenants have little or no support while funding is concentrated on those in more acute need, is replaced by spectrum of gradually increasing support.
This starts with a universal offer of employment and financial advice, recognising that even tenants ineligible for formal support services are still vulnerable to unemployment, debt, and poorer health outcomes – particularly during the downturn. 45% of tenants deemed as having “no support needs” actually have at least one element of “vulnerability” – such as previous homelessness, poor physical or mental health or disability, experience of domestic violence or time spent in prison.
In recognising a potential risk of over-burdening the social housing sector, Demos presents a series of recommendations aimed at drawing on the skills and capacity of tenants themselves, some of which are:
- Using community leaders - teams of volunteer tenants- to help housing officers keep an eye on vulnerable tenants
- Fostering peer support groups for newly unemployed tenants and mentors and befrienders to help “settle in” new arrivals
- Creating a culture of community participation and self-reliance through volunteering and employment opportunities within housing organisations themselves
Claudia Wood, deputy director at Demos, said: “Social housing providers and local authorities are missing a trick. Rising unemployment and sweeping cuts to benefits and services has meant that tenants not normally considered as being ‘at risk’ are suddenly highly vulnerable.
“Social housing providers are best placed not only to spot problems early on, but also to predict where future problems might emerge. This sort of intelligence hasn’t been harnessed yet – but if it were, it could save the public purse millions. With NHS reform, personal budgets, and community budgets, there’s never been a better opportunity to shift to this way of thinking.”
Rachel Byrne, Executive Director of Care and Support at Home Group said: “The difference of nearly £50,000 per person is not a saving that government can ignore. But more importantly, earlier identification of needs will mean social housing tenants can lead happier, healthier and more financially secure lives.
“Housing providers must get better at identifying people whose lives risk descending into chaos, using community initiatives that foster an atmosphere of care for all residents – not just those who are already struggling.”