A safe and secure home is one of the most important things in people’s lives.  For some people, when the security of their home is threatened or when their home doesn’t meet their needs, extra support is needed to help them to stay in their own home or to help build the skills needed to find and keep a new home. Housing Support services help people to live independently in their own home and community.  Services can be delivered in an individual’s own home, in temporary accommodation, like a hostel or in supported accommodation.

Shared Spaces Roundtable discussion: 21st October 2021

BACKGROUND

The Housing Support Enabling Unit organised a roundtable discussion on the Shared Spaces[1] report produced by Indigo Housing and launched by Homeless Network Scotland (HNS) on 5th October.  The research was commissioned by HNS and additional funding was provided by Action for Children, Crisis and Turning Point Scotland.

Overview

The meeting started off with an overview of the research and of its findings by Anna Evans, Indigo House Director.  The research sought to answer the following questions:

  • In what circumstances, if any, is shared and/ or supported accommodation the appropriate housing option for households experiencing homelessness?
  • What should the shared and supported accommodation options required in these circumstances look like?
  • What is the likely scale of such shared and supported accommodation options likely to be in the future?
  • How well placed are local authorities and service providers to adopt these housing options at the scale required?

The research involved interviewing professional stakeholders as well as those with experience of homelessness.  The overall conclusion was that for some people Housing First or rapid rehousing were not the best options because of the nature of their health and social care needs.  The report found that a type of settled supported housing would be appropriate but that sharing of facilities should be minimised.  The core and cluster model of providing support from a local base to people living in dispersed housing or groups of homes was favoured.  The report concluded that further research was needed about the quantity of settled supported housing required.

You can view Anna’s slides here.

DISCUSSION POINTS

 Shortage of housing

The shortage of housing was cited as a fundamental issue affecting how long people are living in temporary accommodation (supported or unsupported) when their health and wellbeing would be better supported by moving into a permanent home.

Rural areas face a particular challenge in terms of availability of mainstream housing and people find it difficult to move on from temporary housing as a consequence.

In response to housing shortage, one housing and support provider is looking at setting up a rent guarantor system whereby they would act as guarantor to help promote access to the private rented sector.

Stigmatisation of housing designated for people facing homelessness

In Highland the focus is on extending the Housing First approach to avoid the stigma so often attached to housing designated for people facing homelessness.  Again, this stigmatisation was seen to be a particular issue in rural areas.

Others felt that presenting housing/ supported housing as meeting the health and social care needs of tenants rather than as a way of addressing homelessness could help to avoid stigmatisation.

 Practice Point

Stigmatisation of housing associated with homelessness very much affects how people deal with the disruption they are facing and how quickly they are able to get on with their lives.  The way housing is presented tends to reflect the way it is funded and so greater involvement of health and social care could help to counter the homelessness label.

Models of housing for people with significant health and social care needs

Housing First does seek to support people with complex needs and generally achieves good outcomes.  In those situations where a tenancy is at risk because a person’s support needs are not being met it would be helpful to examine the way that support was provided in case adjustments need to be made (rather than just assume Housing First won’t work for that  person).

The Core and Cluster model is well understood as a way of assisting people with long term care and support needs.  Making the transition from existing temporary supported or unsupported housing to a core and cluster model would be challenging just as developing new housing would be.   There could be value in considering the role of any existing supported housing that is currently being reviewed in terms of its use and development rather than just looking at housing already associated with homelessness.

Many young people are keen to share (and this is normal for most young people not affected by homelessness).  There would be merit in exploring the possibility for young people who have been homeless to be able to share and rent privately for a few years and not lose their access to housing priority.  Having said, this, the Shared Spaces research found that no one wanted to share bathrooms or to live in unsupported shared housing.

Practice point

One supported housing provider is already looking at the feasibility of transforming its supported housing by adding ensuites and making the accommodation self-contained. Making this a reality will need to involve new financing arrangements.

 Use of existing temporary supported housing

The way that empty properties are managed can be at odds with the needs or preferences of individuals because of the pressure on services to minimise void levels.  A concern was expressed about a tendency to ‘manage voids rather than work with people’.   This highlights the scope to improve people’s current experience of services by reviewing housing management arrangements and expectations of those commissioning services.

Funding

A point was made that funding for support should follow a person rather than the housing so that support is personalised and can move with a person as they move home.

Currently housing support in short term supported housing is not subject to individual  charging because of the way housing support was taken out of housing benefit when the Supporting People programme was set up in 2003.  A question was raised as to whether individual charging could be introduced when a permanent tenancy is created and the support element of the service is expected to be ongoing.  The answer was that yes, in theory, but each HSCP has its own policy regarding charging for support and conducting financial assessments and in any case the Scottish Government has committed to abolishing all care and support charges after recently extending free personal care to all ages.

A point was also made that the funding arrangements for care and support are only part of the picture.  Funding for developing new supported housing as well as transforming existing supported housing needs further consideration.  This should acknowledge appropriate housing design and features for people with more complex needs.

[1] Shared Spaces, Indigo House, October 2021  https://homelessnetwork.scot/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Shared-Spaces-FINAL-Research-Report-AE290921-2.pdf