1. In part 1of this series,we began our consideration of the pilot schemes set up by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (“DLUHC”). This follow up article will consider the outcome of those pilot schemes.

The key findings of the pilots

  1. Possibly the main purpose of carrying out the pilots was to gather‘on the ground’ knowledge to enable further steps to be taken to help to ensure that existing rogue landlords are brought to task (and hopefully removed where necessary) and to prevent any future infiltration of rogue landlords into what is essentially still a vital and valuable part of society - caring for those in need. Whilst many providers may have been aware that these pilot schemes had been undertaken, and may even have been one of the providers participating in a pilot scheme, perhaps most may not be similarly aware of the key findings made as a result of this not insignificant exercise.

  2. The main out comes of the pilots can be broken down into seven key areas with a number of subsidiary outcomes.

  3. In brief,the seven key findings were that:

(1) Local authorities reported that the pilots improved the quality of resident support and helped make it more tailored and sufficient for residents.

(2) Over the course of the pilots, local authorities have reduced the number of illegitimate or unreasonable Housing Benefit claims paid out, by improving the process of Housing Benefit scrutiny and increasing the number of reviews carried out.

(3) At the end of the pilots, local authorities estimated that they had prevented £6.2 million being paid in error.

(4)Local authorities agreed that the pilots led to improved quality and standards of accommodation through investment in property inspections and enforcement activities to identify and resolve property hazards.

(5) Local authorities found that conducting an assessment of demand for and supply of supported housing helped to improve their understanding of the local market. Local authorities that have conducted a strategic planning exercise experienced further benefits.

(6) The pilots improved local authorities’ ability to intervene in new provision and prevent providers from establishing new and unnecessary schemes.

(7) Partnerships and multi-disciplinary ways of working were vital contributors to activity success.

1025 inspections - 3,000 haxards identified - 655 actions taken to address hazards - 1,149 hazards removed (48%) - Accommodation quality improved

  1. The above information taken from the DLUHC’s published report in April 2022 ‘Evaluation of the Supported Housing Oversight Pilot’ (Kantar Public and Imogen Blood Associates - shows how the pilot activities led to the improvement of accommodation quality.

The additional outcomes of the pilots

  1. There were essentially four additional outcomes noted from the pilots which were highlighted in the above report:

• Local authorities have been able to understand the need for supported accommodation in their area and plan to meet it. This has been achieved by carrying out an increased number of more in-depth care and support needs assessments of supported housing residents, mapping supply and developing strategic plans for supported housing going forward. Supported housing has been scrutinised more than ever before due to improving joined up working practices through multi-disciplinary teams and conducting support reviews.

• Residents have provided more feedback on their accommodation and support through increased engagement, and this has also improved their awareness of standards and processes. This has started to lead to an improvement in the quality of accommodation and support.

• Local authorities and providers have developed stronger relationships and a better mutual understanding through liaison around pilot activities such as organising inspections or requesting further information about properties and quality issues.

• Local authorities have improved their processes for responding to safeguarding concerns and complaints. Meanwhile, local authorities have reported new safeguarding concerns that individual claimants may suffer an emotional impact from scrutiny of their claims or being called upon to provide testimony at trial.

Consideration of the findings

  1. Many of our client providers will say that only the most dedicated and caring individuals should consider opening a supported housing scheme. Initially in setting up a scheme, a would-be provider must be prepared to invest their time and energy into the lengthy process required to achieve their goal of being recognised as a genuine provider of good quality supported housing. A long-term vision of financial set up costs is also required. Once operational, the work continues. All providers must be able to show that they are meeting the regulatory requirements at all times and providing everything to which their residents are entitled, especially regular, good quality support.

  2. For the genuinely caring and diligent provider therefore, the pilots and the key outcomes drawn from them may be a welcome improvement in a complex process. It is their opportunity to show that they are meeting all their necessary obligations and requirements and not short-cutting in every direction possible simply to generate money for themselves.

The key recommendations

  1. Any investment needs to show its worth. So, what were the final recommendations arising from the pilots undertaken? These can be summarised as follows:

(i) Make short-medium term funding available to local authorities to oversee supported housing in their area, to embed and potentially expand the pilots’ work while longer term reforms (e.g., regulatory and legislative measures) are agreed and implemented.

(ii) Aim to define “care, support and supervision”, and review regulations around rent levels and subsidy, to increase the impact of Housing Benefit scrutiny activities.

(iii) Strengthen local authorities’ powers to support them to intervene in new supply where it is unnecessary or poor-quality.

(iv) Review funding and regulation for the support element of supported housing to improve quality and support.

10.In summary, it is encouraging to see that the actions of the minority rogue landlords in the supported housing sector are now being challenged to prevent them from continuing to operate their sub-standard accommodation at the expense of the vulnerable adults who remain at the heart of this vital housing sector.

MR Associates - December 2022