Supported housing services for people with mental illness 'in jeopardy'

By agency reporter
June 29, 2018

A new survey by Rethink Mental Illness of 117 staff members who work in supported housing services for people with mental illness, reveals 84 per cent believe that the Government’s new funding proposals would mean their service would probably close.

Under these proposals, anyone needing supported housing for less than two years will have to rely on cash-strapped local authorities to fund the housing they need. Instead of being supported to live independently in the community, people severely affected by mental illness are more likely to face distressing and unnecessary stays in hospital because of these plans.

Danielle Hamm, Associate Director for Campaigns and Policy at Rethink Mental Illness said, “Supported housing is a lifeline for many people with mental illness, for many reasons. It helps people get out of hospital so they can start to get their lives back on track. People severely affected by mental illness are also often vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and this kind of housing offers a place of safety. But new Government plans put these services at risk. We urge the Government to reconsider this potentially disastrous funding model and treat ‘short term’ as just that – as weeks, not years.”

The Government decided to introduce a new model for short-term supported housing because the introduction of Universal Credit could make funding stays of only a few weeks more complex for tenants and providers. However, ‘short-term’ is being arbitrarily and inappropriately defined as two years or less.

The survey also found that:

  • 81 per cent believe that people who need mental health supported housing will be less likely to access the support they need if they are reliant on local authority funding.
  • The money will be protected by a fragile ring-fence, but 88 per cent do not have confidence that the ring-fence will be retained in the in the long-term.
  • 86 per cent feel that the recovery of people with mental illness could be undermined as they approach the end of their two year stay in ‘short-term’ services.
  • 60 per cent feel that the role their service plays in reducing demands on the NHS would be reduced by the new model.

Under new plans ‘short-term’ supported housing will be paid for by local authorities, while ‘long-term’ is covered by individual Housing Benefit. The two year definition of short-term means that thousands of people will have reduced rights to access supported housing and will be dependent on local authorities to get the help they need.  

A wide range of organisations that provide supported housing have raised concerns about these proposals, within the mental health sector as well as among homelessness charities and women’s refuges.  Ministers are expected to confirm whether they are going ahead with the plans in the coming weeks.

Sarah, who works at a Rethink Mental Illness supported housing service in the north of England, said, “It’s a dire situation that will get worse if these proposals go ahead as stretched budgets will be stretched even further. Where are all these extremely vulnerable people meant to go? Should there be further cuts and uncertainty within the sector, it is likely to cost lives. The fact that this kind of proposal has even been considered is unfathomable”

* Rethink Mental Illness https://www.rethink.org/home

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