Panorama: Chief Executive response

In response to last week's Panorama programme– the Housing Benefit Millionaire - we’re calling on the government to address the fundamental issue of uncertain funding around supported housing – i.e. housing for some of the most vulnerable people in society – which is causing many good housing providers to walk away from this kind of provision, leaving the door open for unscrupulous landlords to make money out of a system designed to support those in need.

Last week’s Panorama Programme, The Housing Benefit Millionaire, highlighted the potential for the system designed to house and support some of our most vulnerable citizens to be abused for personal profit.

Reporters said that investors and developers linked to My Space Housing Solutions were making large sums of money while customers were not receiving adequate support.

Speaking on the programme, Crisis CEO Matt Downie, called for tighter regulation around ‘exempt housing’ – specialist accommodation for which providers can charge higher rents – to prevent unscrupulous landlords benefiting from tax-payers’ money. 

At Advance, we have been providing homes and support for people with Learning Disabilities and Mental Health conditions for 48 years. When we started in 1974 we supported four people coming out of institutional care who had a dream of living independently in the community.

Since then, it has been our ongoing vision to transform lives by providing services that enable people to live as fully and independently as possible. Today, we serve more than 5000 people across the country, we are the UKs largest provider of shared ownership homes for people with disabilities and we can be proud of the quality of our homes and services.

It is an incredibly challenging sector to operate in.  Physical adaptations, security and support which are needed in specialist and supported housing are expensive to provide and the funding systems are complex and limited. We are active members of the Learning Disability and Autism Housing Network – a coalition of national and regional housing associations providing homes and housing services for people with a learning disability and autism – all of whom are compliant with the Regulator of Social Housing and who have been calling for action to address the lack of funding certainty that has caused many good organisations to stop developing supported housing. 

With a strong emphasis on Governance in our business, we can be confident in our ability to demonstrate that every penny of tax-payers’ money goes to the people for whom it is intended and that we are operating first and foremost in the interests of our customers. Regulation by the Regulator of Social Housing and the Care Quality Commission as well as scrutiny by our customers and their families, ensures that we are continuously challenged to deliver the highest quality services.

We agree with Matt Downie that all providers offering supported housing should be held to this same level of scrutiny, however they fund their business, and we would welcome tougher regulation of exempt housing. We need to close the loopholes in the system that enable individuals and rogue landlords to make large personal profits from funds intended to support people in need.

But we also need to address the more fundamental issue of adequate and targeted funding for specialist and supported housing. That’s why we have signed up to the Learning Disability and Autism Housing Network’s Charter which calls on government to develop a national framework to address the barriers for new, sustainable quality housing because, as the Network has said, “there is clear evidence that strategically planned sustainable, quality supported housing for people with a learning disability or autism provides long-term positive outcomes for individuals, and delivers value for money for social care and health commissioners.

Julie Layton, Chief Executive