Together we can make a real difference
The UK Housing Awards recognise and reward the very best in the UK housing sector. This year’s event will be taking place in May, bringing together hundreds of housing professionals. Over the next few months, organisations and individuals shortlisted for a UK Housing Award are giving an insight into their work and why they have been nominated. In this blog, John Verge, chief executive of Golden Lane Housing talks about what they’ve been doing to support those with learning disabilities across the UK, which has earned them a place on the shortlist for best supported landlord.
Every year at Golden Lane Housing, we offer advice, support and importantly new homes to hundreds of people with a learning disability throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Mencap established Golden Lane Housing in 1998 to support the increasing thousands of people living with older parents or living in unsuitable institutional care. I have worked in this part of the supported housing sector for nearly 20 years and have seen the real difference quality, safe homes make to people with a learning disability and their families.
Evidence from Mencap shows that 7 out of 10 people with a learning disability want to live independently, but the vast majority still live with families or in registered care settings. At Golden Lane Housing, we continue to find innovative approaches to provide bespoke, adapted and accessible housing through a combination of new build and refurbishment, along with leasing from local and health authorities, other social landlords and private landlords. We continually strive to improve the quality of our services with the help of our tenants. One recent example has been the national expansion of our own specialist in-house repairs team, Resolve Solutions, who have helped drive up satisfaction and support the safeguarding of our tenants.
Back to the future
There are real opportunities for the new government and the sector to work closely together to ensure that the needs and aspirations of people with a learning disability are met. The government could do well to look back to the strategic plans of some twenty years ago, with the introduction of Supporting People for housing-related support and the national learning disability strategy – Valuing People – to help set a future direction of sustainable funding. The failure to ring-fence the Supporting People funding resulted early on in squeezes with the funding by local authorities, and ultimately led to the decimation of this vital form of funding in England as social care departments struggled with austerity cuts. It was therefore no surprise to see other providers across the whole of supported housing rebrand their slashed housing-related support funding as intensive or enhanced housing management.
I really welcome the imminent National Statement of Expectations for supported housing and the focus on quality and value for money in the new welfare system. However, the uncertainty caused by the proposed local housing allowance cap still casts a long shadow over the sector. We have seen many longstanding housing associations pull away from supported housing and the much-criticised long leasing model providers have increasingly supplied the demand.
It is important that any new proposals from government are properly thought through and there is appropriate engagement with the whole sector. There has never been a greater need for a joined-up approach to providing a sustainable capital and revenue funding regime for supported housing. I have spoken to many peers over the past year who were also concerned about the negative perceptions of this part of the supported housing sector. It felt the right time to put a more positive spotlight on the housing needs of people with a learning disability.
This spring will see the official launch of the Learning Disability Housing Network, a coalition of twelve national and regional housing associations operating in the sector. Our aims are to promote the housing needs and aspirations of people with a learning disability and/or autism and work with government and other bodies to ensure quality services and new provision. There is rightly attention on the viability, value for money, and quality of registered providers in this sector by government and the regulator, and our group of compliant providers want to explore the challenges and opportunities in the sector. The government and the sector have a responsibility to work together to ensure people with a learning disability have the right opportunities to build their independent lives in their communities.