From April 2012 to March 2019 housing associations in England have closed 14 properties every working day that accommodated older persons, disabled persons, women fleeing domestic abuse or homeless persons.
69 properties per working week and 2,501 properties per year across all forms of sheltered and supported housing has been the average that have been closed down just by housing associations according to official figures released last week.
Table 1 – Supported Housing by English HAs since 2012
In that 7 year period the housing need for older persons, for domestic abuse victims for disabled and for homeless persons has all increased significantly yet social landlords have abandoned housing need in favour of housing greed as the same English housing associations have chosen to develop 78 new shared ownership and leasehold properties per working day while closing 14 supported and sheltered properties each working day.
Why? – Or is there any justification?
The reason and answer is simple. It is Universal Credit, more specifically it is the abject failure of the Tory government totally forgetting the facts that housing benefit is paid to supported and sheltered housing when they developed the Universal Credit policy.
It is crass incompetence by government that has seen supported & sheltered housing reduce by 17,508 properties since April 2012 while all HA properties have increased by 281,751 over the same time.
In July 2011 after the Welfare Reform Act had received Royal Assent the Tories issued a consultation paper proposing that sheltered and supported housing rents and the amount they receive in housing benefit should be tied to the private rented version of housing benefit called Local Housing Allowance or LHA.
This was the Tories admitting they had totally forgot about and ignored Housing Benefit was paid to supported housing when they developed Universal Credit. It was, is and will always be one of those Oh Shit moments when politicians realise what they have done!
So began 7 years of secretive behind-closed-doors discussions between government and the social rented sector about how the Tories could change Universal Credit to make it apply to supported housing which the government eventually abandoned in 2018 as it could not be done. That same 7 year period saw all social landlords, councils as well as housing associations, take flight from sheltered and supported housing as its revenue funding, principally housing benefit, became a financial risk too far – commonly called the proposed LHA (Maxima) cap.
Existing sheltered and supported housing closed and all new development plans for sheltered and supported housing were put on a very dusty abandoned shelf.
That is precisely WHY today we have a chronic shortage of supported and sheltered housing for older people, for disabled persons, for domestic abuse victims and for those who are homeless.
Social landlords have reacted as any sector would respond to financial risk and that risk to the financial sustainability of – extra care housing for older persons, resident and non-resident warden sheltered housing, supported living for those with a learning, mental, physical or sensory disability, homeless families and single homeless persons and to domestic abuse refuges – and all such supported housing shortfall was directly created by the abject incompetence of the Universal Credit policy and development by the Tories in forgetting that Housing Benefit, one of the 6 legacy benefits rolled into the 1 ideological folly called Universal Credit, was paid to supported and sheltered housing!
Universal Credit’s rank incompetence IS undoubtedly responsible for greater costs such as longer and more temporary homeless provision and is undoubtedly responsible for greater deaths to all persons who require sheltered and supported housing, deaths directly created by a reducing number of supported housing while the need for supported housing was ever increasing.
Bed blocking in hospitals is another aspect and Universal Credit incompetence is one reason why each of us wait longer for NHS operations. Simply, inpatients have nowhere to be discharged to. The same bed blocking (excuse the offensive phrase) occurs in homeless hostels with no supported move-on and leads directly to greater rough sleeping numbers. The same bed blocking applies to DV refuges who can’t move women and children in because they can’t move women and children out of refuges. It means women suffer much more and prolonged domestic abuse and more will have died because of this.
I could list so many more obvious consequences of the crass incompetence of the Universal Credit policy and those who created this ideological folly. Yet is the bigger political point being the error of the Labour Party in labelling UC as inhumane rather than abjectly ill-considered and abjectly incompetent? The Labour Party are missing a huge political trick in labelling UC as inhumand rather than totally incompetent.
When you or your family have to wait longer for NHS operations or you or your family has to stay longer in hospital or when you see so many more people sleeping rough or see or read about more women and children suffering domestic abuse, or read about homeless families being put in unsuitable office block conversions or even shipping containers, or rat and cockroach infested temporary homeless provision the reason for that is Universal Credit.
The direct reason why every local council put up council tax by an additional 2% with the precept for adult social care was due in large part to Universal Credit as councils were having to pay residential care rates because the supported living model of social care largely funded by housing benefit was not available for LA commissioners because of Universal Credit reducing the provision of extra care sheltered and supported (living) provision for those with disabilities by its incompetent design.
Every English household is paying 2% more in Council Tax due to Universal Credit – worth a mention for all those who think supported housing doesn’t affect them don’t you think?
The numbers explain – Universal Credit when fully rolled out would affect 30% of UK households (over 8m of 27m.) It currently has rolled out to circa 15% of its anticipated target population so currently it directly affects no more than 5% of all UK households and therefore does not affect 95% of all UK households.
YET EVERY UK household pays more in council tax, every UK household is affected by longer waits for NHS operations, every UK household sees and is outraged by more visible rough sleepers, more women and children suffering domestic abuse and few if any see the critical role and direct cause that the ideological folly called Universal Credit has played in them!
Universal Credit is, has been, and always will be a policy of crass incompetence caused by its ideological zeal and bent of its creators in Iain Duncan Smith, his think tank which developed it and the incompetence of the Conservative Party in introducing it. Good riddance is long overdue and will be hastened when the Labour Party realise that it is far more incompetent than inhumane in political and all other terms.