In focusing only on new supported but mainly sheltered housing that won’t now be built the National Housing Federation are promoting a narrative that is disturbing, selective and negates many far worse impacts of the LHA Maxima Cap policy.
- What about the many existing services that will inevitably close including homeless hostels and refuges that are not ordinarily run by housing associations but by independent small charities?
- What of the impact this policy has on general needs tenants including what essentially becomes a back door bedroom tax for pensioners?
- What about the impact of existing inevitable closures of supported living services that are also mostly run by charities and the huge adverse effect that will have on costly increases in residential care for mental health and learning and other disabilities and on bed-blocking and much higher cost and much longer waiting times in the NHS?
These three of many more inevitable impacts of the policy are not mentioned by the NHF in their news release, that is shamefully picked up and repeated parrot-fashion by Inside Housing and the Guardian, yet they have greater political sensitivity and importance and would embarrass and challenge the Tory government far more.
This is not the NHF focusing on what affects them as many of the other charitable support providers lease their properties to deliver support; rather it is all about the NHF policy of non-challenge as they have what they call a “critical friend” relationship with the Tories and how can a government that dumps all over you can be a friend never mind a critical one?
The logic is truly perverse when it solely focuses on what new housing units will not be built and not on what existing housing units will close. Yet that clearly infers that housing associations will simply reprovision existing hostels and refuges and group homes for mental health etc into nice expensive flats and thus reveals HA’s care far more about the actual bricks and mortar than the most vulnerable who live in them.
In a long line of asocial practices of housing associations this one trumps them all. I do wish housing associations would be honest and say openly what is all too apparent that bricks and mortar matters and who lives in them is very much secondary yet they continue with the pretence that they have this ethereal social purpose.
Housing associations are carcinogenic for social housing and social purpose and the 1948 Welfare State’s pillar of housing those most in need and you do not get any more in need when we are discussing supported housing residents.
HA’s are more destructive change agents than private companies are to the NHS or free schools to state education or workfare providers to full employment welfare state ideals yet because we are all affected by what goes on in schools, at the workplace and especially the NHS yet only one in every six lives in social (sic) housing and so the their neo-liberal ravages and attacks on a central pillar of the Welfare State go largely unnoticed – and ‘social purpose’ is the HA’s cloak of invisibility device borrowed from Harry Potter in this regard.
Housing Association is a false term and they are correctly called PRIVATE Registered Providers (PRPs) by the UK housing regulator. These PRPs do not have any duty to house or rehouse those in need and because they are private organisations they cannot hold a public or statutory duty and yet they are still classed under the heading of social landlords along with councils who do have these mandated duties.
HA/PRPs are an aberration, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who are making record year-on-year surpluses (profits) and they have 63% of all social housing stock in the UK and with 60% of that being former council housing too. They use ‘social purpose’ only as a business tool for publicity and reputational purposes and they are nothing more than a private landlord with smokescreen ‘public’ advantages that they exploit for increased profit.
The fact that their national body and lobby group in the NHF is ONLY concerned about new bricks and mortar not being erected and cares not a jot about existing very vulnerable residents in supported housing says everything you need to know about housing associations.
After all, they have no duties whatsoever to house or rehouse anyone never mind THE most vulnerable in need of housing and support. They can, and will, allow existing services to close and the vulnerable who live in them become the responsibility of local councils to rehouse and nothing whatsoever to do with these housing associations.
The NHF announcement find the usual complicit and lazy journalism in Inside Housing here and the Guardian here so the NHF narrative takes the first move advantage and first impression counts grounds. Yet this is a narrative of only new bricks and mortar matter and matter more than women and children fleeing domestic abuse, those who are homeless or who have learning, physical and sensory disabilities, or more important than care leavers or those with acquired brain injury and just about every other support and supported housing need. You are less worthy than bricks however vulnerable you are to the callous private registered providers aka housing associations.
The overwhelmingly majority of HA products and units (and yes that is how they refer to them) is sheltered housing which is often not even supported housing. Age can lead to infirmity of course yet attaining an age – typically 55 – is the only entry criteria to sheltered housing whereas all other genuine supported housing requires a vulnerable support need to enter such as being homeless to get into a hostel or be fleeing domestic abuse to get into a refuge. The vast majority of sheltered housing is not supported housing at all and only the ‘extra care’ variant is genuinely supported housing.
The NHF deliberately conflate this to their advantage as the opening of the risible Guardian article reveals:
Housing associations have cut plans to build homes for vulnerable, elderly or disabled residents by 85% because of concerns over proposed welfare changes, according to an investigation.
This carefully worded sophistry infers housing associations provide for all that can come under the vague term vulnerable and for disabled and this is simply not true. While the likes of Mencap have their own housing (and indeed own housing association in Golden lane Housing) the vast majority of supported housing for disabled persons is not delivered by housing associations at all.
It is by smaller specialist charities and many of whom do deliver support in HA properties. So by the NHF not giving a flying fig about existing services they are also shafting those specialist smaller charities who actually deliver the support and this lack of challenge to their very much favoured Tory government – aka their critical friend – means that housing associations don’t give a stuff that these smaller charities will fold and go bust because of the Tory LHA Maxima Cap policy that the NHF show such faux concern about.
Some larger housing associations such as Riverside who are mentioned in the NHF article do have a large supported housing presence nationally, yet only because they took over English Churches Housing Group a specialist supported housing provider almost two decades ago. Prior to that Riverside did have some supported housing, a relatively small amount but still larger than most and they are the exception rather than the rule for housing associations in their exposure to supported housing.
So we see the opening quote above can relate to a small handful of the 1500+ housing associations who operate supported housing yet it is a very small part and the exception rather than the rule in terms of supported housing. It is the rule not the exception in sheltered housing yet most sheltered housing is not supported housing.
Yet despite those lengthy but necessary explanations it all comes down to the private registered providers having lost any semblance of social purpose they may once have had in prioritising new bricks and mortar over existing severely vulnerable people and housing associations washing their hands of any responsibility or caring about these very vulnerable people which is utterly offensive and callous.