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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 03/03/2003
Supporting People



This report reminds members of the Government’s proposed new arrangements for the implementation of “Supporting People” and the changes this means for the way in which people who live in supported housing will receive Housing Benefit and new payments to cover their landlord costs and care costs.

From 1st April 2003, a number of existing funding streams will be amalgamated in a single Supporting People grant. This will be administered by local authorities that are Social Services authorities, and used to pay for the provision of housing and related support services.

The Supporting People Financial Regime comes into being in April 2003, and this has implications for the way in which the Council charges for the “support services” provided by Sheltered Housing Managers, Community Warden staff, etc. This report sets out the charging implications for existing tenants and new tenants.

There are no sustainability/environmental implications.
APPENDIX K
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL
COMMUNITY OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – 3RD MARCH 2003



Title:
SUPPORTING PEOPLE – IMPLICATIONS FOR CURRENT AND
NEW TENANTS OF WAVERLEY

[Wards Affected: All]


Summary and Purpose

This report reminds members of the Government’s proposed new arrangements for the implementation of “Supporting People” and the changes this means for the way in which people who live in supported housing will receive Housing Benefit and new payments to cover their landlord costs and care costs.

From 1st April 2003, a number of existing funding streams will be amalgamated in a single Supporting People grant. This will be administered by local authorities that are Social Services authorities, and used to pay for the provision of housing and related support services.

The Supporting People Financial Regime comes into being in April 2003, and this has implications for the way in which the Council charges for the “support services” provided by Sheltered Housing Managers, Community Warden staff, etc. This report sets out the charging implications for existing tenants and new tenants.

There are no sustainability/environmental implications.



Introduction

1. In March 1999, the Government announced significant changes to the way in which payments were to be made to those who lived in accommodation with staff support – for example, sheltered housing schemes, groups homes for people with disabilities, hostel accommodation for vulnerable groups of people, etc. At present, much of the housing and support costs are met through Housing Benefit. The new system, which comes into being at the start of April 2003, intends to ensure that Housing Benefit payments are only for “bricks and mortar” i.e. rent; and that any other landlord-provided support is to be funded by a ring-fenced pool of funding to be administered by “local authorities”.

2. Two main factors prompted the Government to make changes to the Housing Benefit regime in respect of support costs viz:-


a Judicial Review in 1997 determined that it was unlawful for housing benefit to be used to cover non-”bricks and mortar” rental costs; and

an Audit Commission Report “Home Alone” (1998) drew attention to the inflexible, complex, unco-ordinated and inefficient ways in which supported housing was currently funded. It recommended that funding needed to be related more closely to strategic priorities and best value reviews.

3. The new way of funding supported housing is called “Supporting People”. The main features of “Supporting People” are:-

from April 2003, the principal funding sources of housing-related support (e.g. Supported Housing Management Grants, Probation Accommodation Grants, Housing Benefit, Home Improvement Agency funding) will be channelled into a single “Supporting People” grant;

Housing Benefit will then only be available to meet core accommodation (i.e. bricks and mortar) rental costs;

Housing Benefit, which is currently paid to meet certain support charges (e.g. for cleaning, community alarm systems, general counselling and advice will cease after March 2003. Subsequently, these support costs will have to be met, in the main, by a cash-limited “Supporting People” grant; and

The responsibility for managing the “Supporting People” budget in Surrey falls to the County Council (the Administering Authority). The County will work closely with the eleven Borough and District Councils in Surrey, as well as Probation and Health Authorities. The grant will be allocated to various housing providers or individual users, to meet assessed supported living needs. This arrangement offers greater flexibility than is the case currently in that funding need not be tied to specific housing schemes as is the case with the Supported Housing Management Grant.

4. There have been reports on the subject of Supporting People to earlier meetings of the Housing and Community Welfare Committee (January 2001); the Executive (December 2001); the Member/Tenants’ Special Interest Group (June 2002); to Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Executive in the autumn of 2002. It is an issue that has featured in the Council’s Housing Strategy Statements in the past and current year.

Scope of the “Supporting People” Programme

5. The “Supporting People” policy changes will have substantial implications for Surrey County Council and the way in which Borough and District Councils work to enable the implementation to occur as smoothly as possible. The “Supporting People” grant will be needed to meet the supported housing needs of a wide range of vulnerable groups including:-

Care leavers/young people at risk under 25yrs;

Homeless people in need of support;

Vulnerable single parents;


People with mental health-related problems, learning, physical, sensory disabilities;

People over 60yrs;

People misusing drugs and alcohol;

Ex-prisoners and offenders (including sex offenders);

Women at risk of domestic violence;

Refugees;

Other vulnerable adults.

Implications for Existing Tenants and New Tenants

6. Like many local authorities, in the past the Council has operated a rent pool thereby sharing the cost of provision of all Housing Revenue Account services across all the tenants. For example, residents of Waverley sheltered housing have not paid a rent that reflects the actual cost of providing the housing-related support and the level of staffing on site. In effect, other Council tenants have been subsidising the cost of sheltered and supported housing. The Supporting People regime requires all landlords who provide “support” to clearly distinguish between the cost of providing the “bricks and mortar” element of the landlord service and the “support” costs.

7. As from April 2003, the Council will have to charge rent for the bricks and mortar element only – and this will be eligible for Housing Benefit. The Council (along with all other landlords providing support) will also have to make a charge for the support provided and for those who are tenants at 31st March 2003 and on Housing Benefit, this will be funded from the Supporting People grant through the County Council as administering authority.

8. In the financial year 2002/03, rents at the eleven sheltered housing schemes (inclusive of support costs) have been in the region of 75 per week (inclusive of service charges, water/electricity/heat, etc.).

9. Under the rules through which Supporting People is to be administered, local housing authorities have to disaggregate the support costs from the rent. In Waverley’s case, it is estimated that the weekly charge for “support” in sheltered accommodation should be approximately 33. So, in theory, the charge to tenants should be 33 support + 42 “rent and service charges” = 75 in total.

10. However, mindful of the Government’s rent convergence policy for local housing authorities, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has directed that local housing authorities retaining housing stock may not decrease the rent from the current level. Therefore, local housing authorities have to charge the current rent (plus any rent increases due in 2003/04) PLUS the “support” element. In Waverley’s case this means that the charge to existing tenants would be, generally speaking, current rent 75 plus any rent increase due PLUS the 33 per week support costs – a total rent of 108.’


11. Until such time as a scheme is reviewed by the Supporting People Team, existing tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit are protected from the impact of the new charging system. The ODPM is now suggesting that existing tenants who are not receiving housing benefit should be protected from the introduction of the additional charges by local authorities funding support costs from the “windfall” that becomes available by disaggregating the costs of support from the Housing Revenue Account. Initially, the real impact of Supporting People will fall on new tenants who move into sheltered and supported housing schemes after April 2003 and are just outside the Benefit system who will therefore have to meet the full costs of rent and support.

Officer Comment

12. It is likely that the new charging structure with the higher costs of sheltered housing may provide a disincentive to older people thinking about the option of moving into sheltered housing.

Resource Implications

13. At this stage there are no direct resource implications for the Council, as it is anticipated that the cost of support in the short term will be funded either by Supporting People grant or the Council’s “windfall” funding.

14. There are important implications as to the future and management of the Council’s sheltered and supported housing schemes because of the costs of support provision and issues of demand and affordability by those outside of the benefit net.

Recommendation

It is recommended that this Committee notes the implications of Supporting People on the total charges likely to be made to tenants of sheltered housing schemes and community warden schemes and that the Executive is made aware of those implications.



Background Papers (DoH)

Supporting People Strategy 2002/03



CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Mr J Swanton Telephone: 01483-523375
E-mail: jswanton@waverley.gov.uk








comms/o&s2/2002-03/108 34373