Forging a better understanding of supported housing at a time of reform

Heather Thomas, 01 November 2022

We were pleased to welcome Bob Blackman MP to our supported housing hostel in Kilburn earlier in October. Bob Blackman’s visit to the scheme was prompted by his Private Members’ Bill, the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill, which aims to put in place greater regulation of supported exempt accommodation. We have all seen the stories in the press about the terrible conditions that exist in some parts of the exempt supported accommodation sector. There is a clear need for more oversight and regulation. The sector supports people who find themselves in challenging situations: trying to move on from homelessness or domestic abuse or overcome addiction or other complex issues. We need to ensure these people are protected.

We all strongly support the aim to drive bad providers out of the market. However, it is essential that good providers, and the people they exist to support, are not unintentionally impacted by the Bill. We wanted to share these concerns with Bob Blackman and help him understand the immense value supported housing brings to people’s lives. During his visit, he was able to see for himself how we support residents to manage and overcome specific challenges and eventually move on to permanent housing.

Our hostel is a modern 60-bed hostel located in a residential area of Kilburn. The scheme is owned by Sapphire Independent Housing and we receive funding from the London borough of Camden to provide housing-related support to men who are found homeless and have been assessed as having support needs. Some men housed in our hostel have complex needs including mental health needs. Our aim is to work alongside them to recover and live independently including supporting them in employment, education and training.

Our scheme in Kilburn is not unique and is reflective of the accommodation, services and support provided by many housing providers across the country. I know this and yet during the visit, I too was reminded of how important supported housing is to the whole purpose and mission of the social housing movement. If we are not housing and helping the people most in need – why do we exisit? Supported housing can play an important role in forging a better understanding of homelessness and care in the wider community and creating more cohesive neighbourhoods. Our hostel, for example, receives regular donations from local retailers and has a training and education centre which is available to the wider community.

Despite the contribution we know good supported housing can make, overall provision is declining due to reduced or static revenue funding and increased responsibilities. Looking forward, the outcome of the recent government consultation on social housing rent increases is going be crucial for the future of all social housing providers and especially supported housing ones.

I think Bob Blackman found his visit informative and enjoyable. For me, it was another opportunity to be reminded of how important supported housing provision is, not just in its own right, but as part of integrated, caring neighbourhoods for all of us. We need to make sure that this work is protected as necessary reform takes place.