Revolving Doors has recently responded to two consultations – one from the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Communities and Local Government on future funding arrangements for supported housing, and one by the Department of Work and Pensions on health, work and disability.
Funding for supported housing
Paying for housing costs has arguably always been the trickiest part of the welfare state; it was the one component that completely foxed Beveridge, and it’s been something of a fudge ever since. Funding for supported housing has been one of the most problematic manifestations of this, and has evolved in a fairly ad hoc sort of way as legislation and case law has evolved.
With the abolition of the Supporting People ring-fence in 2009, the supported housing sector has seen large cuts (c.45% compared to c.28% across the board at local authorities) and a new, uncommissioned private supported sector has sprung up which, anecdotally, seems to be of variable quality. There was and is definitely scope and indeed need to fix this, but the government’s hand has been forced by a number of factors, not least the introduction of Universal Credit and punishingly tight fiscal rules which left officials looking around for any areas where there may be fat to be trimmed.
While initial proposals to cap funding for supported housing at local housing allowance levels could have effectively closed the whole sector overnight (with the possible exception of some high cost areas like central London), new proposals acknowledge the contribution supported housing makes in housing around 650k people. The proposed solution of a ring-fenced top-up fund devolved to local authorities seems problematic in a number of respects, but it may at least be the start of a solution that can put supported housing on a stable footing.
You can see our response here.
Improving Lives: The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper
This major paper that sets out the government’s ambition to halve the disability employment gap, which is bigger in the UK than most other EU countries. I suspect that the government’s ambition, while laudable, is completely unachievable at least over the medium term, particularly as funding for employment support has been reduced by 80% or so. This is particularly the case for the revolving doors cohort – while the employment rate of people meeting the Equality Act definition of disabled is around 46% while, for example, only around 15.5% of people who misuse opiates are in employment at treatment start, and only around 20.6% at successful completion of treatment. Similarly low rates can be found for other cohorts, such as those receiving secondary care for mental ill health.
One of the key changes due to happen this year is that referral to labour market programmes will become voluntary (rather than compulsory) for a larger proportion of people but, at the same time, funding for programmes is being drastically reduced. This means that employment support could be ‘rationed’, and that people who want help to work but are seen as being long shots, may not be able to access it.
Finally, a quick word about sanctions; the current Work Programme has famously resulted in more sanctions than jobs, by about 550k vs 555k based on the recent statistical releases. There is good evidence that people who can’t remember/can’t understand/can’t do what they’ve been asked to do to keep their benefits are at a much higher risk of being sanctioned, and some of the revolving doors group will fall into that category.
The astonishingly high levels and rates of sanctioning seen in late 2013 (JSA) and mid 2014 (ESA) have created a miasma of bad feeling and suspicion around Jobcentre Plus, DWP and contracted out provision. JSA sanctions are now at their lowest level since at least 2000, and it seems pretty clear is that the sanctions boom is over, but the reputation of Jobcentre Plus and, consequently, the willingness of jobseekers to engage with it, may take longer to rebuild.
You can see our response here