Council housing? Oh no it’s not! Ethical my a**e! Shame on you Mayor Joe Anderson

Liverpool City Council has become a landlord once again – a private landlord and which it claims is ethical I kid you not!  Liverpool Foundation Homes – a private limited company and private landlord which the council is claiming to be an ethical landlord – has the full backing of Mayor Joe Anderson as this publicity for a ‘rent to buy scheme reveals and which Mayor Joe wrongly and knowingly deceives in calling council housing.

lhh rent 2 buy

Liverpool Foundation Homes is a local housing company (LHC) – a construct that the current Tory government avidly seeks to promote in its Social Housing Green Paper from 2018  which defines a LHC on page 71 of that as  “independent commercial organisations wholly or partly owned by local authorities to buy, develop or manage properties.

In other words a private landlord owned by a council and which Liverpool City Council seeks to obfuscate and deceive by calling LHF an ethical company and below is the spiel on the Liverpool Foundation Homes website.

About Liverpool Foundations Homes

Liverpool Foundation Homes (Foundations) is Liverpool City Council’s ethical housing company. Foundations is the flagship housing policy for Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson, who wants to use the company to rebalance the city’s social housing stock, revolutionise the Rent to Buy sector and drive up council tax receipts.

It has been tasked with creating bespoke properties for the homeless, foster carers, large families, the elderly and people with a disability and to improve the availability of good quality, affordable homes in the city.

You can see why it self-proclaims to be ethical given its claimed rationale above with its focus on vulnerable groups in housing terms such as those homeless or foster carers, those with a disability and so on  … yet what is it announcement today … ah!

Foundations, Liverpool City Council’s housing company, is to launch a rent-to-buy scheme so that people can get onto the housing ladder and eventually own a home of their own. The company, one of the flagship housing polices for Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, will launch the initiative with a pilot project involving 14 new homes in the city. Under the scheme, people will be able to rent a home at 80% of the market rent, so they can save the other 20% towards a deposit in order to get a mortgage to buy the property. They will be given an option to buy the home after 12 months and up to five years at a fair market price based on an independent valuation at the time of purchase.

The scheme will be available to people who live or work in Liverpool and are either first time buyers or people who have had to sell a home because of a relationship breakdown. Other criteria include being in work but unable to buy a home on the open market because the household is unable to save a sufficient deposit due to living costs.

So a perverse home ownership scheme not housing for foster carers or those disabled or homeless or any other “ethical” client group then!  And why is this rent to buy scheme perverse?  Oh dear how long have you got!

Rent to Buy?

The rent on a 3 bed property will be set at the “affordable (sic) rent” level which is circa 47% above a council rent level and the renter or renttobuyer will have the option to buy that property at full market value and with no discount in the first 5 years.  Let’s put that into illustrative terms for Liverpool and instead of paying a council rent of £85 per week the tenant will be paying £125 per week in rent which is £40 per week more than a council rent and £30 per week less than a private rent of £155 per week.

In the first 5 years or 260 weeks this council owned private landlord will have charged the tenant £10,400 more in rent than they would have paid if the property had been a council house, and the perverse claim is that this helps the tenant save for a mortgage deposit!  True, it will have saved the tenant £7,800 if they had been charged a full market rent by a private landlord (excluding fees) but still over £10,000 more rent being charged than a council tenant!  Good luck with saving for that mortgage deposit

The known lie and deceit of Mayor Joe Anderson

The word ethical is a deceit and con trick and one which is being promoted by Joe Anderson the Mayor when he says in this article:

The company’s rent-to-buy launch follows news that Liverpool City Council intend to begin building council homes again for the first time in 30 years. Mayor Anderson said: “The work of Foundations and the new rent-to-buy scheme complements our council house building plans. Buying is not for everyone, for a range of reasons, so it is important that we do what we can to help people in every situation to get the home they deserve.”

These are NOT council houses Mayor Anderson they are homes owned by a private limited company and whose direction is claimed to be subject to council approval.  Liverpool City Council is not building council houses at all so the claim of Mayor Joe Anderson for this rent to buy scheme that it “…complements our council house building plans…” is a known and deliberate deceit.

A quick look at Companies Houses sees Liverpool Foundation Homes for precisely what it is which is a Private Limited Company and not a council house landlord and the picture above is Mayor Joe Anderson smiling with Frank Hont a director of this private limited company and former councillor at LCC

Liverpool Foundation Homes Limited is a private landlord, no ifs or buts, that is what it is and this announcement today is the first one which mentions the type of rent it will be charging which is the misnomer and deceit called “affordable (sic) rent” and which is typically 47% above the rent that existing council landlords charge across England.  It is NOT council housing at all in any way shape or form.  It is not some ‘arms-length’ construct such as an ALMO it is a private landlord company lock, stock and barrel and thus any claim this is council housing is a de facto deceit by those who claim it.

This local housing company (LHC) construct has been around since 2011 yet had relatively little take up by the local councils who had sold off their council housing stock and which is almost two-thirds of all English councils until the Conservative government made this the clear driver in their Social Housing Green paper in 2018 and I reported on here in a post called “Tories housing policy (SHGP) is ALL about the death of UK public housing” which is what the private landlord construct called the LHC does and precisely what Liverpool City Council is doing with Liverpool Foundation Homes Limited.

Further Comment

IF … Liverpool City Council top slices and ringfences this £40 per week and £2,080 per year extra rent on these properties in order to cross-subsidise the rents on truly ethical housing for foster carers, the disabled and the homeless then fine – as long as that is publicly stated and written into any agreement and legally binding upon Liverpool Foundation Homes Limited. Yet I doubt that will happen or can legally be possible and shows this claimed ethical approach for what it is, a deceit.

Liverpool City Council like all who have sold off their council housing to housing associations and who are also private organisations called private registered providers and because of that can hold no legal duty to house or rehouse anyone are in a bind.  They cannot legally re-establish their council housing departments as the transfer agreements to these housing associations will forbid this, and the newly formed housing associations those transfer agreements formed will not and cannot rehouse these so-called ‘ethical’ groups because of (in their words) the tenants “limited entitlement to welfare assisstance” – or in lay language No DSS – which housing associations practice routinely even in a low to medium rent area such as Liverpool.

Homeless families are hamstrung by the overall benefit cap policy which sees any family with 3 children in Liverpool not receiving enough in housing benefit or its UC equivalent to meet the rent.  That will shortly become the family with 2 children due to the OBC and also due to housing association rents rising by more than inflation and due to housing associations increasingly using the ‘affordable (sic) rent’ level rather than the 47% less expensive social rent.

Due to this Liverpool City Council is placing homeless families in very costly hotel accommodation and cannot move them into safe and secure sustainable properties because the combination of the OBC and inflation-busting rent increases by housing associations means they will not rehouse as not enough housing benefit is paid to cover the rent.   This places huge increased and ever-increasing costs to the council to pay for ever longer stays at such costly temporary accommodation. The same process also sees any disabled household who loses their DLA or PIP or who loses their ESA support group status lose the exemption they have for the overall benefit cap policy and face the same housing benefit cut.

To turn specifically to this first (of many) such schemes and which all have a limited tenant group who can apply for this rent to buy product. What happens if the working household which is one of the criterion loses their job while still renting?  They will still be apying the affordable (sic) rent level and the housing benefit they can claim or its UC equivalent will be cut significantly by the overall benefit cap policy and the AR level charged and thus themselves become a prime candidate for the arrears to eviction to homeless pathway!  The use of the affordable (sic) rent level can NEVER be ethical as it means in simple yet stark terms you lose job you lose your home.

The misnamed affordable rent model always means lose job lose home because of the overall benefit cap policy and is unethical and distinctly asocial yet it is the only game in town for housing associations and LHCs and note well the builder of these 14 LHC rent to buy houses is also the private housebuilder wing of a housing association too as Redwing Living is the private arm of Regenda Housing Association.

The Regenda Group is well established. Formed in 2001, within 10 years it was joined by five housing associations, dating back to 1963: West Pennine and the Limehurst Village Trust in Oldham, Templar in Macclesfield, Wyre in Poulton-le-Fylde and Maritime in Liverpool. Together, we gained a reputation for innovation.

We strengthened our Independent Living, property development and regeneration services. In 2009,we saw an opportunity to provide a better value repairs service by buying M&Y Maintenance and Construction. We went on to increase our commercial activity, buying McDonald Property Rentals (a private lettings agency), creating Redwing Living (our private rent, sale, property management and shared ownership company) and acquiring Alder Training (which provides training and apprenticeships in health, dental and care, as well as business, housing and customer services). These commercial enterprises contribute some of their profits to enable Regenda Homes to provide affordable housing and social projects. 

In the last few years, we have added to our portfolio, welcoming to the Group the Petrus Community (homelessness charity), Centre 56 (child care for those suffering from domestic abuse) and Positive Footprints (personal development for young people).

In the first 5 years of the Tories Affordable Housing Programme which spawned the affordable rent level and saw the bastardisation of the word affordable from its dictionary meaning, housing associations converted over 102,000 existing properties.  The word converted here means the housing associations replaced the £85 per week social rent level the very next day with a new tenant in the exact same property paying £125 per week in rent and £40 per week more for the exact same property using my earlier illustrative figures – and the national average is this 47% increase in rent overnight!

The undeniable facts on AR “conversions” from the then regulator:

conversions

It is nothing more than rank profiteering never mind unethical or asocial by housing associations and the same goes for ALL local housing companies such as this Liverpool Foundation Homes Limited construct of the city council and which calls itself ethical!

It (AR) means no job no house for existing as well as prospective tenants.  It is no job no house and Mayor Joe Anderson should be shamed and ashamed about this deceit when he claims this is council housing.  The tenants on this Rent to Buy scheme will have an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) the same tenure as a private tenant, the same no-fault eviction tenure of a private tenant – as far removed from a council tenant as you can get – and because Liverpool Foundation Homes is a private landlord it has to use this insecure form of tenancy and can’t even use a full assured tenancy never mind the secure tenancy of a council tenant.  Private companies cannot use these forms of tenure.

Housing associations can use starter tenancies for up to 18 months and which also are AST no-fault eviction tenure yet Liverpool Foundation Homes will use them indefinitely and every one of their tenants whether in Dingle or the previously announced Yew Tree development will be on these no-fault eviction basis.  How ethical is that Mayor Joe?  How deceitful are you being in stating these are council houses!!

 

 

 

 

 

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UK social rents a third higher than German private rent levels

In 2018 over 10,000 took to the streets in Germany and in 2019 over 35,000 took to the streets to protest against private rent levels increasing to 21% of income.  Yet in the UK average social housing rents are 28% of net income after housing benefit and a third higher!

UK social landlords are taking the michael out of UK tenants and who respond with a typically British shrug at inflation-busting rent increases from council and housing association the distinctly ASOCIAL landlords we have who treat the social tenant as cash cow.  I am writing about Mietenwahnsinn which translates as Rent Insanity once again as a report in the Financial Times says that millions are being wiped off German private landlords worth due to a freeze on rents

german rent freeze

For years British social tenants have been getting ripped off by social (sic) landlords – and of course UK private tenants more so – and yet us British shrug our shoulders and think there is nothign we can do about it!  What a callow, craven bunch British tenants are!

We have a narrative from the Tories that we can’t impose rent controls and a narrative from the so-called left wing Labour opposition to cap social rents at 35% of income – that I berated in April 2018 – and which is two thirds higher than German tenants pay in private rent and which the so-called left-wing Labour opposition say is affordable!

I have drafted many times arguments that UK social landlords should form their own tenant union and stated how politically powerful such a union would be given the 4.9 million social tenant households in the UK will contasin 6 million or so adult voters and they would put the fear of God into all landlords and all governments for that reason (see here, and here) – and yet we see purported tenant groups wasting their time on greater engagement with their landlords and practically begging their landlords to engage.

Social tenants, unlike transient private ones, are very stable and any social tenant union would be easy to reach and could and should be able to fund themselves by subscription in order to fundamentally redress the landlord:tenant relationship.  UK Social housing tenants have so much latent power and influence that they refuse to realise and if German private tenants can force rent levels that are just 60% of UK social rent levels then the proof is in the pudding and been eaten – frankly it is time they got off their arses and formed a social tenants union.

Over 6 years ago I spoke with the head of a very large trades union asking them to form a social housing tenant union.  The response I received was no … and because it would become a bigger union than the largest trades union we have in the UK thus reducing the relative power of the trades union movement.  I was convinced them and for many years before that of the political power a social housing tenant union would wield by being 6 million voters.  It is and always has been stating the bloody obvious.

Yet social tenants will not come together and we are left with very small and insignificant private tenant lobbies who wield very little comparative power and who manage to create and sustain their organisations on subscriptions and thus independently funded.  To all those social tenants who cravenly believe that a social tenant union would not wield any power or influence just look at what German private renters have done.  Just think how much more you will be paying in rent because you refuse to come together and tell – yes TELL not ask – landlords and government that you need a rent cut not the 1% above inflation rent rises you will get from April 2020 and for the next five years … and also a one-off 5% increase on top of that too is possible.

Finally, to all the social housing professionals who state that they are ‘social’ that they are riven with social purpose and which courses through their DNA and all other such ethereal bullshit spin, please tell me why your so-called social rents are at least one-third above German private rent levels?  Tell me why you are still demanding ever-increasing revenue subsidies (rent increases and the affordable (sic) rent model) AND a return to capital subsidies on top of that too?  How long will you get away with using UK private rent levels as a disguise for your outrageously high rent levels with this strategy?  – Sorry, that last question is of course largely rhetorical as the answer is clearly as long as social tenants do not get off their arses and organise.

 

Widdecombe can cure ‘gayness!’ – She probably thinks Housing First can work!!

Housing First is not what you think.  It is a model that cannot work in the UK and today we see yet another eulogising polemic extolling this model from yet another journalist who has no idea about single homeless provision.  What is really interesting about the article today is it proves – by its own wording – that Housing First cannot work in the UK and just how costly this charade is and let’s cut to the chase and look at what it says to prove those points.

In the UK we are told that Housing First is a permanent house first and then support is delivered by a visiting model that averages 3 hours per person per week at a cost of £40 per support hour.

Now let’s compare that claimed UK Housing First model to what the actual service is in Helsinki as the article in the Guardian states:

HF rukkila1

So we see that Tatu lives in a two-room apartment – which is a bedroom and bathroom – as the COMMUNAL living room, COMMUNAL dining room, COMMUNAL kitchen and COMMUNAL sauna is downstairs.  The 21 Housing First tenants live upstairs in this SHARED facility that is NOT a permanent home and is what we call in the UK a HOSTEL and not an individual home.  It is part of the ‘staircase; that the Housing First proponents says does not exist yet it clearly does in this accommodation-based service that we in the UK call … a HOSTEL!

In fact the picture of this housing unit the Guardian describes states it to be a … HOSTEL!

HF rikkula 2

Here is the Housing First claimed non-staircase model that you can see says (ahem) you go straight from the streets to a “regular self-contianed dwelling with rent contract” … which the Finnish model is patently not given its COMMUNAL living room, dining room. kitchen and sauna!

HF model staircase

Further in this article we read this:

HF rukkila

Seven staff supporting 21 tenants?  That is 13 hours of support per tenant per week based on a 39 hour working week.  In the UK we are told that the cost of a Housing First support hour is £40 so that is a £520 per week support cost.  (The average UK hostel cost including rent is £180 per week for comparison purposes!)  Note too that the UK HF proponents believe 3 hours per week of support is adequate and less than a quarter of the support in the Finnish model!

The second highlighted excerpt is simply to show that having support staff ON-SITE as in this accommodation-based model and what we in the UK call a HOSTEL is much better, less reactive and support issues can be more quickly identified and more quickly resolved than in the visiting support model we call floating support in the UK.  In short, the model we have in the resettlement model is far more qualitative than the Housing First model that the head of Crisis Jon Sparkes wants to replace it with!

But after a three-month trial, tenants’ contracts are permanent?  Yet we are told that the Housing First model is unconditional and this Guardian article even opens with:-

“Finland is the only EU country where homelessness is falling. Its secret? Giving people homes as soon as they need them – unconditionally

Thus all of these Housing First claims that the model is unconditional are lies and just part of the PR charade and hyperbolic nonsense its proponents promote without any consideration of the facts! Hey ho!

“In 2018, six tenants moved out to lead fully independent lives!”  Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!”– So Housing First is NOT a permanent house as its deluded proponents claim, it is a stepping stone and part of a staircase model that its proponents vilify the UK resettlement model for being!

Just as important is if 6 out of 21 tenants move on each year it means the average length of stay is 3.5 years or 182 weeks at a cost of £520 per week just in support cost alone!  Each case at the Housing First service costs £340 per week more in support cost than the £180 per week housing and support cost of the UK hostel model!  Yet the deluded Housing First proponents in the UK tell us it is a cheaper model than the UK hostel resettlement model!

The English average length of stay in a hostel is 130 days (97 days in Scotland whose naive government are keen to try this unworkable costly model) so let’s call that 19 weeks at a total cost for housing and support averaging £180 pw is £3,420 per person.  In Finland the Housing First rent model is also subsidised as the support is and capped at one-third of market rent which in Helsinki is 900 Euro pcm and thus 300 Euro or around £60 per week as I said here among many other Finland to UK contextual differences:

HF finland bullets

So the Housing First Finnish cost in UK equivalent terms is £600 per week (£60 rent and £540 support cost) making the average cost is 182 weeks at £600 per week and £109,200 per tenant!

How ironic that the average cost of a Housing First tenant is 32 times the hostel resettlement cost at (£109,200 to £3,420) when the Housing First model is championed and being actioned by the idiotic, naïve and deluded 32 Scottish local authorities!  That really is some snake oil selling that Crisis have done on the Scots and which last week saw Glasgow close 89 hostel rooms in order to fund a new Housing First model!

So, reader, in conclusion you have three choices – (a) you can believe the Housing First hype; or (b) you can believe the Housing First hype without reading the 1400 word diatribe in today’s Guardian, or (c) you can read the facts above and say WTF is all the Housing First hype about and what deluded ignoramus would ever advocate it.

If you still believe Housing First can work in the UK perhaps you can donate to the Ann Widdecombe crowdfunder for a scientific cure for homosexuality!!

 

MPs and Housing professionals do not know what ‘housing need’ is!!

Politicians and social housing professionals do not have a clue what housing need is – a provocative statement you may think but in reality it is not as it can so so easily be substantiated.

Yesterday saw this announcement – Yet another inquiry …

… quickly followed by a plethora of social housing professionals saying Dear God what on earth do we need another bloody inquiry for such as:

another enquiry oh yes

For once Tom Murtha and the rest of the social housing professionals who have posted much the same have this oh so wrong and we do need a full and correct investigation into Housing Need as we have never had one to date!  Tom and many more are saying we’ve had the SHOUT report and so many others and I see what they are saying yet … and note the following words very carefully indeed we have never had an investigation into housing need!

Housing Need – what we have had and what we haven’t

What all of the estimates of supposed housing need have had whether by a politcal party, by SHOUT, by Shelter, by Crisis, by housing lobby and by the independent Shelter Commission report is a number of properties claimed to be needed which is not housing need!

ALL of these estimates focus on a global number yet they do not say and have never said is we need ‘x’ number of one bed properties, ‘x’ number of 2 bed properties and so on.

This also means these global numbers do not state WHO new properties are being built for, or more particularly a specific housing need in terms of client groups.  For example, I can give a very cogent argument that GB needs in terms of housing need 150,000 new one bed properties each year for single person homeless purposes.  This single person homeless cohort included hostel dwellers, rough sleepers and around 8,416 single women who reside in domestic abuse refuges and also require a one bed property to escape the state of homelessness which does include refuge provision.

That example is a good one of what I mean by the term Housing Need as this one far from inclusive single person homeless cohort generates a need for 150,000 one bed properties each year – or in other simple words generates a 150k per annum housing need!  Add in other single homeless groups such as those leaving dependent and semi-independent provision for independent permanent accommodation in all of the other Supporting People client groups; and then add in single homelessness, rough sleepers and single refuge provision for Northern Ireland; and then further add to this with all of the hidden homeless such as sofa surfers and of whom the vast majority will be single persons and the UK has a yearly housing need for well over 150,000 one bed properties just for single homeless groups!

The charge here, and a charge that the facts prove, is that social landlord nor previous governments have ever built and subsidised the building of one bed properties – ever!  In short social (ahem) landlords and even the Labour and Tory governments of the 1950s and 1960s whose manifestos all claimed they had built more social housing than the other, never ever built the one bed property and thus they have never ever built for housing need!

In 2016/17 when we also had the same 150,000 UK one bed rehousing need for single homeless persons saw just 13,000 being allocated by the combined council and housing associations in England.  The English social rented sector only had around 22,000 1 bed properties becoming available in that year outside of sheltered housing and thus suitable for the same single homeless cohort.  That reveals that the SRS even when subsidy was comparatively awash in the 60 years of the good old days (1949 – 2009) never built for the housing need of single persons of working age.

At this point I return to the Terms of Reference for the latest inquiry into supposed ‘housing need’ and look at the first and primary question:

  1. How can the Government ensure the sustainable delivery of social and affordable rented housing to meet long-term need and contribute to the Government’s overall housebuilding targets. 
  • What levels of central government funding will be required to support this delivery over the next 10 years. 
  • How effective existing government incentives and programmes are and what further incentives should the Government provide to key stakeholders to stimulate delivery.
  • Are supply subsidies the best way of supporting delivery, or should other approaches be considered?

The question assumes that housing need is known and quantified yet as my very brief explanation of just the single homeless numbers show they have not done this at all.  Secondly, the question is about what levels of subsidy are needed to build the housing units to meet this as yet developed and considered housing need – and which leads me into the question of subsidy.

Subsidy, that is capital subsidy, was given to social landlords in the 1949 – 2009 sixty year period to build for (a) housing need and (b) to build for properties that the private enterprise housebuilder would not build because they were uneconomic for the private sector to build.  These are the reasons for capital subsidy in short for the social landlord to build what the private landord will not.  Yet as the massive shortage of one bed properties reveal social landlords and despite being awsh with capital subsidy did NOT build one bed properties and it did not build for housing need – and so much so that today we have a massive structural shortfall and one that will only get worse as the overwhelming majority of new housebilding is done by the private housebuilder who simply will not build one bed properties even for social landlords as there is not enough profit in building them.

A third point in this opening and primary question in the housing need terms of reference is affordability – and which I address in its dictionary definition and not in its social housing definition of being on average 47% more than a social rent level (and AR is also a form of revenue subsidy to add to capital subsidy, as indeed is inflation busting rent levels a revenue subsidy and which return in 2020).  Hence, and I will leave this question hanging, why do social landlords want 1 form of capital subsidy and two forms of revenue subsidy!?

I will address affordability in its correct definition in regard to women fleeing domestic violence and abuse as it illustrates a number of housing need and other critical points.  Early May saw Theresa May claim that her forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill would guarantee a safe home for domestic abuse survivors. This week has seen Crisis launch their #ASafeHome campaign on the same issue and we also have an ongoing social landlord campaign over rehousing more and doing more for domestic abuse.  Superficially all of those have much merit yet many practical problems emerge when you scratch the surface of these veneers such as how can this Bill make local auhorities commission services yet a safe and secure sustainable home be a right under statute?

However all of these three initiatives on domestic abuse are a form of divide and conquer strategy when we look at homelessness.  Figures from WAFE, Scottish Women’s Aid and Welsh Women’s Aid when extrapolate reveal that each year 22,690 domestic abuse cases go through their refuge doors.  Of these 8,416 are single women who are by definition part of single homelessness and who also require one bed properties.  The remaining 14,274 are FWC homeless – families with children and who require 2 bed and larger properties to escape the homelessness state that a refuge is.

It has always been the case that domestoic abuse survivors, both single and family cases, have been perceived to be deserving while the rest of the single homeless cohort have often been perceived as ‘undeserving.’  It is a decades old argument in homelessness and supported housing yet until we look at the massive structural problem the UK has in never building the one bed property the extent of this deserving / undersving argument has remained largely theoretical.  Yet now with calls for ALL domestic abuse survivors to be granted a secure social housing property instead of being fobbed off with an unsuitable and insecure PRS property the practical difficulties become manifest in any investigation into housing need!

IF the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill is ginf to guarantee a safe (as in secure and sustainable) home then it means that across GB social landlords need to provide 8,416 one bed properties for the single (female) refuge housing need and another 14,274 2 bed and larger properties for family (female) refuge housing need.  A number of points flow from this:

Firstly, the figures quoted are for female only domestic abuse numbers and do not include males fleeing domestic abuse.  There are significant numbers of males fleeing domestic abuse and the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill cannot be seen as just for female victims and survivors as the law cannot allow it to be written in such a way.  If, as is likely, males as victims beomes more widely known and they have more right to a safe home too, then a higher number of SRS properties will be needed and also factor into UK housing need and which also mens new legislation such as this will alter housing need of any previous studies.  Having advised 2 male domestic abuse services (and 17 female ones) males do not and largely cannot flee with their children as the police rightly or wrongly view this as kidnapping (!!) and so in practical terms males fleeing domestic abuse need one bed properties – and which further adds to the single homeless rehousing need as yet another sub-group.

Secondly, and of very strong practical consequence, women fleeing with children are likely to be extremely difficult to rehouse even in the social rented sector due to affordability issue created by the combination of the overall benefit cap policy and the restarting of SRS rent levels increasing by 1% above inflation from next year.  In 2020 a woman fleeing with 2 children can be subject to the OBC and not have enough paid in housing benefit (or its UC equivalent) to afford the cheapest social rent in the highest social rent areas.  By 2025 this will be a nationwide problem in even the cheapest social rent areas.  In short by 2025 anyone who fully populates a 2 bed SRS property and is a benefit household will fall foul of this overall benefit cap policy.

If housing professionals and politicians want me to spell this out it means 74% of all social housing properties (the other 26% are 1 beds) will be No DSS properties as using the euphemism that social landlord choose to use, these cases which include domestic abuse survivors, have “… a limited entitlement to welfare assistance” – or in other words No DSS as practised by council and housing association landlords.

This is why I have chosen to use the word affordable from this housing need inquiry terms of reference as its literal or dictionary meaning!  And this has huge impacts for housing need and all campaigns such as #ASafeHome and #MakeAStand.

As (not if) there will be no exit route from refuges because refuge survivors cannot afford and will not be offered move-on accommodation into a safe home then the average length of stay at a refuge increases that in tuen means ever more victims seeking to flee domestic violence and abuse cannot enter a refuge because they are full!

Note well: – I have deliberately chosen to make those points about the OBC, affordability, inflation-busting SRS rent increases, No DSS practices in the SRS, refuge bedblocking and refuge refusal to house due to inability in the context of refuges.  I am using the decades-old arguments of deserving / undeserving in a domestic abuse context while they also exist in all other forms of single and family homelessness for effect and because they are valid in all forms of homelessness.  The current direction of travel of housing / homeless / domestic abuse policy smacks of divide and conquer between one form of deserving homeless in domestic abuse and another undeserving form in all other single and family homeless.  It is offensive.

To return to my opening point and larger one of housing need, all of the above points significantly factor into any real and practical definition of and investigation into housing need.  I could list many more aspects that factor into future housing need and current and future housing (ie bricks and mortar) provision and all of them neend extremely careful consideration of WHO we need to build for and what type and size of housing property the most vulnerable need.  To simply say we need 250,000 or 300,000 or 350,000 new properties per year is naive, neglectful and frankly incompetent and the figures just from GB homelessness reveal an aggregate need for at least 350,000 properties each year alone.

This means GB has a far greater housing crisis than it wants to admit as if we need 350k new houses per year just for homelessness the overall total for all renting, shared ownership and for sale number is likely to be well over 500,000 per year.  Yet that is what you get when you genuinely look at housing need and when you genuinely look at social housing need this 350,000 per year figure and which could easily be higher is a staggering cost.  Quite why capital subsidies that averaged £23k in 2010 and became £67k in the Shelter Commission report and in the latest articles have become £100k is another question altogether.  Yet, whatever the average cost per property actually is, all governments and all social landlords need to be fully aware that the number of social housing properties at a true social rent are so much more than they could and should have been because in the 60 years from 1949 to 2009 when social housing was wash with capital subsidy they choose NOT to build the one bed property and have created this structural crisis that it can be argued is the most pressing element of the so-called UK Housing Crisis.

As I have said too frequently, government and social (sic) landlords have always seen the single homeless as someone else’s problem.

________________________________________________________________

One quick footnote is you always hear and read that the biggest cause of UK homelessness is the private landlord ending of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy.  It is a mantra of Social landlords, social landlord lobbies, of Shelter and Crisis and of Generation Rent and of Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all.  This week the latest homelessness figures were released and it said that the largest cause of homelessness was ….

homeless causes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Housing First is a costly cult

UK local authorities pay an average of £16 per hour for visiting care services so can anyone tell me why would they commission a Housing First visiting support service and pay £40 per hour for essentially the same thing?  They they wouldn’t be that stupid … would they?

The Housing First model is prohibitively expensive and the £40 cost of each visiting support hour comes from the University of York study here for St Mungo’s in 2018.  A study by Imogen Blood Consultants for Crisis the homeless organisation here mentions a 2014 cost of £34 per support hour in Stoke.  A 2016 actual study by NHS Digital here gives a cost of one hour of visiting care at an average of £16 per hour with a range between £13.20 and £18.20 per hour – with the Stoke figure being £13.20 per hour in 2018 and thus compares very disfavorably with the £34 Housing First unit cost of 2014.

Local authority commissioners will NOT pay double to triple the cost of an hour’s support for a Housing First service to single homeless and rough sleeper client groups than they do for visiting care to old and vulnerable persons.  If they make that initial mistake the bean counters in their finance departments will stop this apparent largesse very quickly indeed and therein lies a huge warning for the numerous housing associations who are at the moment like bees round the honey pot at this £40 per hour funding of the Housing First model.

The funding for visiting care is here:

domcarerate

The St Mungo’s / University of York detail and Imogen Blood / Crisis detail is below:

I could state the many nuanced differences between a domiciliary care worker visiting an elderly vulnerable person and a Housing First support worker visiting a former rough sleeper to deliver support but none of them can explain the cost of the former at £16 per hour while the latter costs £40 per hour.  Moreover this is what the bean counters at local authority commissioning teams will see when they make this unit cost comparison which is what they will do an preceisely how they were guided to make comparison on visiting support costs for all client groups in the Supporting People programme.

The academics upon whom all of the Housing First cost claims are based made critical and naive mistakes  in their cost comparisons between the visiting support model of Housing First and the accommodation-based support model used in homeless hostels – not only was this a false cost comparison and one that commissioners will ignore, it was a chalk and cheese comparison of low support Housing First model and high support hostel resettlement model.

The Housing First model is a very low support model that is wholly inadequate for rough sleepers and single homeless client groups and is based on an average of three hours of support per person per week.  This level of support can never work for this intended client group even if the bricks and mortar housing was available which it isn’t and anything less than 5 hours of visiting support pppw is low level support as defined in a government adjudication circular from 2000

fs levels

The above is from the Housing Benefit circular A47 of 2000 to guide Supporting People teams (and THBS decision makers) on floating, i.e. visiting support services.  The same teams already knew that anything less then 2 hours per week was classed as de mininis support by a legal ruling.  The visiting domiciliary care teams that local authorities commission sees an average of 9 hours per week of visiting support and the support needs of former rough sleepers are invariably greater than these in terms of need and scale thus the support offer of the Housing First model is dangerously low and will see tenancy failure as one service did at 100% failure in a recent Scottish pilot that has gone unnoticed and unreported except here.

However, it is the cost analogy of Housing First to domiciliary care that will ensure no sane or competent local authority will commission the Housing First model which is why the Glasgow decision to decommission 89 homeless hostels spaces and fund a Housing First service last week was acutely irresponsible for local authority, provider and the single homeless service user.  As I argued in that piece it will reduce the number of bricks and mortar options for single homeless persons and lead to an increase in street homelessness (rough sleeping) as inevitable consequence.  The Housing First model wherever operated will never find the 1 bed properties it needs either – see here and here  – because the UK has a structural problem in never building one bed properties and is the one issue that guarantees the literally named Housing First model will fail because it puts the bricks and mortar first in its model.

Just as significantly the clamour for Housing First means homelessness providers will and must become extremely risk averse in providing services.  Why would any homeless service provider develop services when local authority commissioner idiocy sees them defunding hostels in order to fund HF service models which are bound to see the funding levels cut significantly once those HF models begin?

Why would eg a housing association develop a HF service on the promise of £40 per support hour funding that is likely to be cut to align with the £16 per hour funding the very same LA commissioners pays for domicilary care? 

That is the critical question and is why housing associations would be unwise if not insane to develop HF services. In that context Housing First is a bigger threat to single homeless services than the government’s LHA Maxima Cap plans floated in 2011 and only abandoned in 2018 which stopped all development of new build supported housing services and of developing existing ones.  Just as the supported housing sector gets rid of that acute financial risk in the LHA Maxima Cap it now has in single homelessness client group areas the even greater financial risk of the Housing First model.

The three large-scale Housing First pilots in the devolved areas of Liverpool, Manchester and West Midlands mask this critical financial threat as they are additions to and not replacements for the existing hostel resettlement models.  Yet there is no doubt that Crisis and Jon Sparkes its chief exective in particular, wants the Housing First model to replace homeless hostels and he said that very explicitly last month at a high profile conference in Liverpool.  The Glasgow example is the first lunacy replacement model in defunding existing services to pay for the Housing First model and this throwing the baby out with the bathwater example is so significant as it is this replacement model that is not extant in the large scale pilots in England.

I could draft and have drafted thousands of words as to why Housing First resembles a cult in its hyperbole and how its devotees avoid fact and scrutiny like the plague making this model akin to the Scientology Church cult.  Yet any actor on the single homeless stage be they local authority or any government form, homeless provider or homeless person and all politicians need to ask fundamental questions of this model.  It’s cost per support hour of more than double the cost of the domiciliary visiting care service that it undoubtedly will be compared to by commissioners and budget holders – even if the housing was available and even if its support model wasn’t so ineptly inadequate – will see it fail and see any idiotic provider who goes down this blind alley fail too.

________________________________________

I have developed sustainable supported housing services for decades, it is what I do.  If anyone can claim to have expertise in this broad area, which is very moot, then mine is in single homelessness services and where I first started in housing 26 years ago.  I cannot state how dangerous the Housing First model is as either a replacement model for existing services or just dropped into the UK context and expect it to work as well as it has done in Finland.  Finland has a radically different context to the UK as I outlined here and restate below.  Also every Finnish government since 1987 has been committed to cure what it calls homelessness and we call rough sleeping (the two are very different issues.)

HF finland bullets

In the first Blair administration we were told that Foyers were the panacea for single homelessness as they worked so well in Belgium, France and the Netherlands.  The UK adopted them lock, stock and barrel and did they prove to be the panacea as claimed? No they did not!  The UK welfare system had more in common with these European countries than we do with the Finnish system (and the virulent anti-immigration policies there with the immigrant being labelled as the problem) too which is radically different as the above bullet points explain and thus the Foyer model had a better chance of working than the Housing First model.

Supported housing (and general needs) providers always follow the money and develop services to where the funding is and has been and will be.  That is in part logical of course yet the funding for Housing First that appears now to be fantasic in comparison to the resettlement model and especially in England where SP funding has all but gone is ephemeral.  It will reduce significantly in the very near future for the domiciliary care comparison I give above – which IS the comparison commissioners will undoubtedly make rightly or wrongly – and will all but disappear when and not if the Housing First model fails due to the inadequate housing and inadequate support offers it holds.

So whether you come from a homeless persons approach, a provider approach, or a commissioner approach the Housing First model is at best a superficial flash in the pan that should not be touched with the proverbial bargepole.  It is mutually detrimental to all homeless and rough sleeper actors and fraught with strategic, operational and financial risks too far.  There is an urgent need to look at the cold hard facts and not get carried away with the huge hyperbole that surrounds the Housing First model and which does resemble a cult when those cold hard facts appear to the very closed minds who advocate and promote Housing First.

There are better existing models that can be tweaked to reduce single homelessness and rough sleeping than the Housing First model and even the age old HB regulations can offer greater ‘support’ levels and come from central government budgets not local commissioning ones and which are far more financially sustainable for those reasons. None of these are rocket science just age-old facts and a case of stating the bleeding obvious and this niche single homeless sector cannot choose to ignore the structural crisis of the UK single homeless system producing a need for at least 110,000 1 bed properties per year and the UK social landlords provide just 13,000 of these – a fact mad all the more alarming with the proposed banning of no-fault evictions in the PRS that will make landlords there flee this riskiest of client groups it now accommodates.

The UK social rented sector has never built one bed properties even when it was comparatively awash with grant subsidy to build for housing need and while it may be painful to read that for social housing professionals it is patent fact so the stock excuses of this lack of grant subsidy today do not and cannot hold.  Social landlords who claim they have social purpose – a label used for building for and accommodating housing need – have never built for the single person housing need let alone the single homeless person.  The single homeless have always been someone else’s problem for the SRS when it comes to housing need and a factor that is still current as to escape homelessness we need a social housing property solution not a private landlord one.

One final point is I have nothing against the theory of the Housing First model or any nostalgic sentimentality for the hostel resettlement model.  I developed a service in the mid 1990s that today would be called  a Housing First variant for those coming out of detox and rehab direct to their own tenancy.  It worked and worked well but it did so in a very different context today than back then – eg a pre bedroom tax context that made difficult to let 2 bed properties an option as well as 1 bed properties which then nobody wanted or was forced to take- as viable when today it is not.

So please no shooting of the messenger or other lame excuse to avoid looking at the cold hard facts of Housing First which is a model that simply cannot or will ever work in the UK.

 

 

 

 

 

Monkee see, Monkee do. Facts on HA and LA landlords asocial reality and no DSS

Council and housing association landlords want to believe they are social.  I want to believe that Steven Gerrard was once as good a footballer as I was! Am I day dreaming or just a housing Monkee?

Well I suppose monkey see, monkey do is the correct way to view landlords who claim to be social, or have social purpose coursing through their veins or other such nonsense claim LA and HA landlords make and what’s more the facts I relate below prove that without any shadow of a doubt.

Wanting to believe something is a very different thing to being it and the facts all demonstrably show that the so-called social landlords are asocial not social and a short and very much understated piece today in The Guardian by Patrick Butler set this off when he alluded (and no more than alluded) that housing associations do not house or rehouse those who are homeless and alluded to that they operate that emotive term No DSS.

Patrick is very much wrong as housing associations do routinely operate No DSS and do routinely and consciously not rehouse the homeless and there is no allusion it is 100% valid and correct as the facts below show: Patrick is also wrong because council landlords operate exactly the same not rehousing of the homeless and operate the same No DSS practises as housing associations – and in No DSS it is to all benefit households not just the homeless too. Patrick does deserve credit as response to his article has (finally) opened up debate on social media about these two issues. So let’s look at the facts.

Rehousing the homeless?

Shelter and Crisis are in broad agreement that GB has around 320,000 homeless households (single persons and families) each year a cautiously low estimate as it happens.  The Shelter 2018 estimate was 320,000 and only included 14,000 or so single homeless hostels case when we have over 40,000 across GB and 35,000 in England alone. The subsequent Shelter Commission Report estimate of this year put GB homeless at 270k at any given time which means the yearly number is even higher than their 320,000 understated November 2018 figure.  None of these estimates include those fleeing domestic violence which is also a form of homelessness and we have 3,800 domestic abuse refuge places across England which means around 10,000 per year go through the refuge system.

In short the number of yearly homeless cases (singles and families) is at least 330,000 per year and a figure I used here to illustrate and the number could easily be as high as 370,000 so it too is a cautious figure.

Last year the CORE data for English council and housing association landlords revealed (Table 3f) that they rehoused a total of 33,000 former homeless cases and just one in every ten homeless households were rehoused by social landlords in England and just 10% of all social housing lettings were to homeless households.  Social landlords can’t dress that up as anything other than shocking and disgraceful and asocial in the extreme.

To break this down some more we know that in 2016/17 English social landlords rehoused just 13,000 single homeless persons (Crisis Moving On report 2017) out of the 346,000 they rehoused that year – just 3.8% of all social landlord lettings went to the single homeless households and that is similarly asocial and offensive.

At least 110,000 single homeless household per year across GB go through the homeless hostel system and 96,000 or so in England alone.  Yet social (sic) landlords only rehoused this 13,000 or less than one in seven and private landlords rehoused at least 6 single homeless households to every 1 rehoused by social (sic) landlords.

Council and HA landlords only have around 22,000 suitable (ie non-sheltered) one bed properties becoming available each year so even if all were reserved for single homeless households in hostels the SRS could only rehouse 1 in every 5 single homeless persons.

Importantly those facts also means that council and housing association landlords have never ever built properties for the housing need of single homeless persons – never built meaning the SRS have ALWAYS seen single homeless persons as someone else’s problem!

This issue of a chronic decades old never building for the housing need of single persons is precisely why the much touted Housing First model cannot ever work in the UK because the properties needed for it, SRS 1 bed (or bedsit) properties simply do not exist.  Pesky facts of course do not stop the very Goebbelsian propaganda that surrounds Housing First from its deluded almost cult like promoters notably in Crisis CEO Jon Sparkes (see here)

What the hell is the point of social housing WHEN (not if) those LA and HA landlords who claim to be social won’t and don’t rehouse those who are homeless?  Even worse is that they couldn’t give a damn about single homeless persons rehousing need as that is what the facts not only say but prove!  This is a cultural and systemic problem.

When the ‘social rented sector’ or SRS and in its members and lobbies proclaims to be social they are fraudulently claiming that and their propaganda machines would draw praise from Goebbels or Farage as the Twitter responses to Patrick’s article reveal starkly.  David Lammy MP – a shadow cabinet minister and whose bio says he studied Law at Harvard – said that housing associations have a duty to house the homeless (see below) yet this eminently legally qualified MP is patently unaware that HAs are not public sector bodies and therefore they cannot have legal housing duties in law.  HAs are correctly named Private Registered Providers because they are private not public sector bodies.

When MPs of all parties in the House of Commons – and a staggeringly high number are lawyers and barristers – do not even know that HAs have no duty whatsoever to house or rehouse anyone it doesn’t bode well for any solution to the universally accepted UK Housing Crisis we have … and also shows that the tell a lie often enough and people believe it – that HAs have to house/rehouse and are social is a propaganda strategy that has worked so well for HAs.

The Twittersphere was ablaze with many housing associations saying they do house / rehouse the homeless and some do a very good job too and I know some do and know of some good practice yet the overall figures cannot lie with just 10% of all SRS housing going to all homeless cases and the nasty bastard totally asocial private landlord rehousing 6 single homeless persons for every 1 that the wonderfully beneficent social landlord does!

I have been ‘banging on’ for years about how asocial LA and HA landlords are and developed the systemic flaw theory in the government overall benefit cap policy in 2012 and presented this to social housing audiences in 2013 which said it was inevitable that social (sic) landlords would have to operate No DSS, a theory or posit that has been entirely proven and this is not anecdotal as Patrick Butler claims in his piece but regrettably just fact.  In 2017 and four years after I presented this No DSS would be inevitable view at CIH the Chartered Institute of Housing published as research report saying precisely that called Tackling Homelessness Together from which the screenshot below comes – and true to form the CIH have been developing a campaign called Rethinking Allocation ever since – two years of talking and inaction is very much par for the course when SRS landlords are found out being asocial or poor practice.

no dss tackling homelessness together

Yet social landlords being the propagandists they are have renamed this de facto No DSS practice which is rife and standard operational practice as “limited entitlement to welfare assistance” and which is exactly the same undeniably asocial practice that social landlords want to believe is only practised by the nasty private landlord sector!

Earlier this year the National Housing Federation in absolutely scurrilously temerity teamed up with Shelter to launch an End DSS Discrimination campaign that focused entirely and only on the private rented sector when it is rife and standard practice by all NHF members in housing associations right across the country!

One final point on No DSS and the overall benefit cap policy is that when it began in late September 2013 it only tended to affect benefit households in the SRS with 5 or more children or about 1.4% of all SRS tenants.  Today it affects all benefit households in the SRS with 3 or more children and in some cases 2 or more now, and all benefit households with 2 or more children within 3 years will not get full housing benefit or “limited entitlement to welfare assistance” – and today up to 64% of all SRS tenants can be affected by the OBC.  Put that another way and you truly get the point:

In 2013 UK SRS had 340,000 new properties to fill and just 1.4% of the typical SRS tenant applicants or a maximum of 4,760 would be refused due to “limited entitlement to welfare assistance” aka No DSS.  This year the maximum number who could be refused allocation due to this de facto No DSS practice is 64% of the same 340,000 applicants or 217,600 exposed to No DSS refusals!  Each year that number grow and in just over 5 years has gone from an at risk No DSS cohort of under 5,000 per year to over 217,000 at risk of No DSS being applied in what is risibly called social housing.

The sector still wants to believe it has social purpose coursing through its veins yet the facts say they most certainly do not.

The OBC policy works in a truly asocial, amoral way.  For every £1 in rent increase it reduces the maximum housing benefit by a further £1 thus rent increases by any landlord are complicit in this No DSS creation policy.  From 2010 to 2017 SRS rents increased by 34.6% and more than double CPI inflation in that time of 16.6%.  Hence SRS landlords were complicit in seeing more tenants hit by this policy and more No DSS refusals were as a result of SRS rent policy.  Next year from April 2020 SRS rents will increase again by CPI inflation plus an additional 1% each year (and also up to a further 5% one-off increase).  By 2025 these inflation busting SRS rent increases will mean that every SRS property aside from 1 bed properties in general needs housing becomes a No Job No Home property – the ultimate No DSS practice and yes that is for SRS rents at their lowest social rent level not the misnamed London Living Rent or Affordable (sic) Rent constructs but social rent.

That is not scaremongering in any way, shape or form it is basic arithmetic and inevitable fact based on fully known numerical data we have now.  What – in business terms – are the so-called social landlords going to do then.  The policy and strategy of Can you pay the rent if not piss off mate, which is the standard SRS policy now for prospective tenants (and will be applied to a further 2 million SRS vacancies by 2025) will be universally recognised just as any 7 year old today who can use a £1 calculator or populate the simplest excel spreadsheet can find as inevitable in 5 minutes.

Council and housing association landlords are not just asocial and amoral they are the biggest business incompetents who will have destroyed the basic component of any democracy which is the state needs to provide shelter for its populace; destroyed in cahoots with the Conservative OBC policy of course which is the same OBC policy that the Labour Party has in its 2015 manifesto to reduce its cap limit too and which still has not seen the supposedly left-wing (my arse) Corbyn Labour Party commit to scrapping even though it undermines one of the 5 central planks of the 1948 Welfare State.

Oops sorry reader, no not for the politics, for my naïve suggestion that any MP of any party would understand the basics of the heinous overall benefit cap policy when most of the idiots still believe social landlords are in any way social!

lammy ha error

 

BBC peddles Tory fake news about domestic abuse secure home for all

Councils in England will have a legal duty to provide secure homes for victims of domestic abuse under new plans announced by Theresa May says the BBC today – a claim which is absolute bullshit.

Regrettably this is fake news as councils will NOT have any legal duty to provide secure homes at all.  Instead of accepting this as fact try reading the 47-page consultation document and you will see clearly and without any ambiguity that claims of councils having to provide a secure home is nonsense never mind having a legal duty to do so.

As well as the new statutory guidance to be issued saying anything about secure homes it also only applies to 151 top-tier local authorities in England and not to all 341 local authorities.  Moreover, what the government is proposing – to expand accommodation-based provision for domestic violence survivors – can already be done under existing HB regulations and so this announcement is nothing new.

The government wanting to provide an additional 2,200 (not necessarily refuge) bedspaces to add to the current 3,813 refuge bedspaces (plus an unknown number of other DV properties) is to be welcomed but with a huge number of caveats and very much NOT with wild fake news claims such as a right to a secure home and all councils must provide as a legal duty.

A final fact before I discuss what this consultation paper actually says and means is that the number of refuges in England has fallen by 8.5% since 2010 when there were 294 refuges and in 2018 there were 269.  In 2010 there were 139 floating support DV services and in 2018 this had fallen by 26% to be 103 – thus any political kudos the Tories are seeking from this announcement and aided and abetted by the BBC Fake News department of Tory propaganda (and numerous others such as C4 Dispatches) needs to be seen in this correct factual context.

One final comment is I have advised 18 refuge services over the past 20 years in a paid professional capacity as a supported housing consultant in financial, strategy, development and operational terms and many more in unpaid advice and time.  That said let’s get on to what the government is proposing in its 47-page consultation paper that can be accessed here and page 19 is the first place to star

dv consultation

As you can see there is absolutely no mention of a secure home or any legal right to a secure home at all.  A future statutory duty to “meet the support needs of victims and their children” is a legal duty to provide support not a legal duty to provide accommodation let alone a ‘secure home!’

This proposal also states any future statute and statutory guidance applies to Tier 1 LAs and the GLA and this is 119 councils out of 341 in England.  The rest of the 222 English local councils will be obliged to support the Local Partnership Boards this proposal creates similar to the Commissioning Body construct of the Supporting People programme from 2000 onwards that have all disappeared in England and any such ‘holistic’ construct which is set up to commission services (and all commissioning is a discretionary process not a mandated one or actual legal duty) always fail. It is the commissioning model that has seen the 8.5% cut in refuge services and the 26% cut in floating / visiting support domestic abuse services lest we forget.

The commissioning process theory is far worse than Compulsory Competitive Tendering which it replaced in the provision of support and always sees non-expert organisations such as housing associations come in to relace the real experts such as individual specialist charities who comprise the vast majority of refuge services.  Yet the commissioning model sees commissioners always seeking to deprofessionalise the expertise needed in domestic abuse (and other client groups) by comparing them with generic low level support services who employ generic and non-specialist staff on minimum wage rates.  The current government know this and their proposal to put domestic abuse support provision with local commissioners is chronic blameshift as when the commissioning model fails central government will say we put the money up thus any blame lies with local authority commissioners.

Using the commissioning model for statutory support is bizarre.  The 119 Tier 1 authority Local Partnership Boards will see 119 markedly different definitions of what “support” means.  The only time “support” which is very different from “care” has ever been defined was back in Supporting People and the woolly and vague definition then I reproduce below to reveal an acute problem in how the term support will ever be defined in statute and associated stautory guidance:

sp eligible support tasks

The above list is generic only and is neither comprehensive nor specific to typical support tasks in domestic abuse services where we find liaison with legal services and with schools and with police and hospital services as routine operational functions of supporting those that have fled domestic violence. Additionally, domestic violence or domestic abuse services are unique within supported housing in that they always need three distinct parts of (a) pre-refuge or ‘Outreach’ ; (b) refuge; and (c) post-refuge services.  No other client group has support to include services encouraging victims to leave their home in order to get support that while regrettable and offensive in theoretical terms is necessary in practical terms – a view supported by the fact that 68% of refuge entrants come from a different local authority to where the refuge is based.

There used to be a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that said all councils – so the 341 in England – should have one refuge bedspace per 10,000 population.  The word should does not mean must and a simple statute to enact that all local councils whether Tier 1 or not must have one refuge bedspace per 10,000 population and as a absolute minimum is sorely needed and would mean all councils have to provide a secure refuge place – and note well a refuge is a temporary emergency provision and not a long term secure home so even this would not make a legal requirement for a secure home.

Another unique practical issue with domestic abuse support provision is post refuge support and which differs markedly from any other client grou in its longetivity.  In other support client groups there is the notion that floating or visiting support after the primary accommodation-based provision should not continue for longer than two years yet domestic abuse involves children and the last thing that children need is having to move schools every two years.  The necessary support for domestic abuse services involves children as much as the parent and the trauma of domestic violence and abuse stays with children forever and also stays with the parent, usally the Mother, who is constantly questionning herself whether her decision to leave and split up the family unit has had a negative impact on her children.  It is why domestic violence is a heinous crime and one that never escapes its victims and survivors.

The practical difficulties the brief overview above creates is in the number of homes needed.  If the current 3,813 refuge places sees each resident stay for an average of 3 months before being rehoused it means over 15,000 new secure homes need to be found each year just for refuge residents in England.  Those secure homes need to be in the social rented sector not in private renting to be secure in terms of tenure and also given the overall benefit cap policy that sees any benefit househld with three children and in some areas with two children not getting their rent paid through housing benefit.  Just 9% of refuge residents are in work and 11% have to give up work to afford a refuge in data from Women’s Aid and published along with official police data on domestic violence.

One issue with the proposal to make support a statutory duty which is what this proposal is means that in order to do that the government have to create an exemption from the overall benefit cap policy for domestic abuse survivors.  Delving deeper that examption from the OBC policy would also need to be until the youngest child leaves full time education too which could be 20 years!  I doubt that Government have seen this issue yet what they do say is that this entire proposal is subject to budgetary constraints that have yet to be estimated and yet to be agreed by the Chancellor in the Spending Review.

The fake news BBC website article after telling all and sundry lies about what this proposal is concludes:

Local government secretary James Brokenshire said it was estimated an extra £90m a year would be needed for local authorities to provide accommodation for victims. The details on funding would be settled through the Spending Review process, he added.

As councils are not duty bound at all to provide accommodation anywhere in this proposal it is clear that James Brokenshire is either incompetent, a liar or both and I suspect strongly the cost of excluding domestic violence victims from the overall benefit cap policy is something the Treasury will include in any claimed £90m per year which in any cases is chickenfeed.

The same current government is avidly promoting the Housing First model of support for homeless persons and acknowledges that Housing First sees open-ended duration of visiting support (which the HF advocates says averages 3 years) and also acknowledges the cost of this at £40 per support hour for an average 3 hours of support per week. Go back to my numbers above which say over 15,000 domestic abuse households are created each year and lets assume they have 3 year support needs at this same 3 hours per week.  Crunching those numbers sees:

  • A constant 45,000 former refuge households needing support each year
  • An average cost of £120 each per week of 3 hours support at £40ph
  • An average weekly support cost of £120 x 45,000 = £5.4 million per week
  • A yearly support cost of £282 million … which Brokenshore estimates at £90m!

Then factor in the reduced saving of up to 45,000 OBC exemptions and which broadly equate to £3,500 each per year and a further cost of £157 million per year giving a total cost of circa £340 million per year to government of making support to survivors of domestic abuse a statutory right … and for which this Government want to pay local councils just £90 million per year!

Blameshift and skullduggery abounds!

In summary of my initial thoughts above which have been considered and drafted within an hour shows this proposal for what it is – absolute bovine anal secretions and desperate lies from an ever more desperate Conservative government (and who may even be in office when this abject consultation finished in August 2019!)

Reader be very careful of your salt intake!