What is the impact of the current system of funding housing support?

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and the HSEU have hosted a webinar on the complex funding arrangements of preventative housing support. Discussion focused on the impact of the current funding system and how to further support independent living and the prevention of homelessness

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and the Housing Support Enabling Unit hosted a webinar focusing on the complex funding arrangements of preventative housing support. Participants represented housing associations, local authorities, third sector providers of housing support and other stakeholders.

HSEU and SFHA were pleased to be joined by Jennifer Wallace, Director of Customer Experience at Trust Housing Association and David Smith, Partnership and Planning Manager in Homelessness and Housing Support at Edinburgh Council.

Yvette Burgess, Director of HSEU, set the scene with a presentation about recent research into the social and economic benefits of housing support. The Centre for Collaborative Housing Evidence (CaCHE), jointly commissioned by SFHA, HSEU, SCLD, Hanover Scotland, and Blackwood Homes and Care published research earlier this year which concluded that there are complex funding arrangements that underpin housing support in Scotland. The report found that while the net benefits of housing support are evident, it was difficult to piece together a ‘public finance story’ of housing support, with more needing to be done to increase the visibility and map funding streams.

‘It is a major research challenge… to attempt to track down all of the public finance strands relating to contemporary Housing Support in Scotland…One can easily spend a few hours digging around official sources without being able to piece together the public finance story in a satisfactory way.’ -CaCHE Report on the Economic Benefits of Housing Support. 

With this context, Jennifer Wallace then presented on accommodation-based housing support at Trust. The presentation reflected on the challenges posed by a lack of consistent approach in contracts and service provision. Many contract awards have been agreed on a year-on-year basis with a lack of strategic planning. Jennifer reflected on the uncertainty of service provision and employment that can be caused by complex funding arrangements. The organisational impacts include increased difficulty to allocate voids, less opportunity to explore new service models and developments, and issues of recruitment. These difficulties experienced in the commissioning and funding of Trust’s accommodation-based housing support services are concerning because of the challenges they pose to the positive preventative impacts of Trust’s service. Through the presence and relationship between tenants and the onsite team, small changes in an individuals’ health and wellbeing can be noted earlier to maximise early intervention and prevention to someone entering hospital or a care home. The flexible service enables reduction in social isolation, mental, and physical health and supports people’s desired outcomes to live independently while maintaining safety and security.

David Smith, spoke about his experience at Edinburgh council in the commissioning of homelessness and rough sleeping services. David reflected on how the commissioning process in Edinburgh had been improved through awarding 10 year contracts for the third sector, with simplified KPS, focusing on reducing repeat homelessness. The commissioning process includes a focus on co-production involving service users.

Discussion with participants then focused on the experience of funding of housing support both from providers and local authorities’ perspectives.

What might a better funding system look like?

Participants discussed the potential for longer-term contracts to enable long-term planning and continuity of services. Participants agreed that there should be more consistency across local authorities, with the commissioning process including consultation with the people using services. There were also suggestions for a move away from framework agreements which have caused problems in some areas. Providers of housing support voiced frustration at the current lack of understanding of where funding for services sits. There was also agreement that more sharing of good practice and communication between local authorities would be beneficial.

How can the adequate funding of housing support help support independent living and the prevention of homelessness?

Participants agreed that effective housing support services rely on relationship-building and trust which is facilitated through adequate and sustainable funding. If providers of housing support services are able to create longer-term plans, there are also greater opportunities to explore new service models and development. Through more sustainable funding, housing support services are more able to focus on early intervention and preventative work, to enable people to live independently and stay safe and well in their communities.