In our previous blog post we explored how traditional supported accommodation is only suitable for people who are on benefits. It is not suitable for people who are working and so there is no incentive for individuals in supported accommodation to get into employment. At the same time, individuals seeking to transition into employment and independence need support at this critical time if they are to maintain their tenancy and hold down a job. This requires affordable move-on accommodation with low level support.
It has to be move-on accommodation with a real difference and not in name only. Many housing providers provide “move-on” accommodation based on the same financial model as the rest of their supported accommodation. I spoke to an individual recently who was transitioning into “move-on” shared accommodation in a house in the community. He was telling me that he was only going to have to pay £70 per month – in service charges. His rent and charges will not be affordable if he finds work. This is not proper move-on accommodation.
The latest 5 year homelessness strategy in Wolverhampton recognises the following distinctions in the provision of various stages of housing and homelessness:
Emergency accommodation is what it says on the tin. It is provision for people who have fallen below the housing line to ensure that they do not have to sleep rough. Making homelessness history does not mean that we are going to eradicate homelessness altogether. There will always be family breakdown, alcoholism, drug addiction and other issues that can and do lead people to losing their home. It means that where homelessness cannot be prevented, it is only be temporary and short-lived with immediate solutions to hand. This is where emergency accommodation has an important role to play.
Supported accommodation is a provision for people who for the most part have multiple complex needs and issues that they need to address. If they are to begin to rebuild their lives they need access to services and tailored support. The focus should be on progressing towards moving on to independence and permanent accommodation. At this stage in their journey they may not be ready for work with a number of issues to address first. It is appropriate for them to be accessing benefits to be able to sustain their accommodation whilst getting the help that they need. It is an essential service and a vital step for many along their journey out of homelessness.
Move-on accommodation is – or should be – accommodation that enables and empowers the individual to transition into independent living, reducing their need for support progressively. If support is withdrawn too suddenly, then the individual is expected to very quickly take on too much additional responsibility. It is often too big a step to go from supported accommodation on benefits to paid employment in independent living with all of the responsibility that comes with that. There needs to be a stepping stone between the two that ensures that more individuals are getting out of the system for good and not coming back through the revolving door. This is where proper move-on accommodation finds its essential role as part of finding pathways for individuals out of homelessness.
Where there is a balance between the different types of accommodation provided, there can be a “through-put” of individuals progressing on along their pathway:
The local homelessness strategy also points to the fact that there is an imbalance between these three in Wolverhampton. We have very little emergency accommodation and little move-on accommodation and an over-inflated middle sector of supported accommodation. This means that we do not get a "through-put" and the service users get stuck going round and round in the middle invariably dipping below the housing line from time to time.
Part of that homelessness strategy is to reduce down the provision of supported accommodation and increase the provision of emergency and move-on accommodation. In theory this sounds great but in practice there may be reasons why this is not a simple task. This is what we will continue to explore next time.