The last few months have seen rapid and significant changes in the relationship between Housing Associations and Government. The introduction in the budget of measures including a 1% reduction in social rent over the next four years, the introduction of ‘Right to Buy’ and ‘Pay to Stay’ arrangements for Housing Association tenants and further welfare reform measures, including the loss of automatic entitlement to Housing Benefit for 18-21 year olds and the introduction of a ‘youth obligation’ to ‘earn or learn’ have given our members a lot to deal with in a relatively short timescale. We are also aware of a pending review of ‘supported accommodation’ that is attempting to assess the total cost to the pubic purse of providing social housing in the UK. We can expect further policy measures to follow from this in due course.
This, coupled with the likelihood of further cuts to Local Authority budgets in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review, means that the Foyer network sits at something of a crossroads. We are hearing more often about increased pressure on housing-related support budgets, with Foyers facing cuts of up to 25% and an increased focus on 16-17 year olds. Our members are in a position where they are being forced to do ‘more for less’, or disengage from the procurement process for housing related support altogether.
At the Foyer Federation we are working through how our tried and tested Quality Assurance processes might feature as part of the discussion around ‘specified accommodation’ and, indeed, what the relationship is between Foyer programmes and the Youth Obligation. We aim to discuss these matters with the Department for Work and Pensions over this winter. In the meantime, we have signed up to the proposal to amend the Housing Bill, currently in Committee Stage, in the Lords to exempt supported accommodation from the 1% reduction in social rent. We submitted a response to the CLG Select Committee enquiry into the Future of Housing Associations outlining some of our members concerns around the social rent reduction, the right to buy, and current and future welfare reforms.
We have also written to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Justice, following his well-publicised remark that prisoners are ‘potential assets to society’. We have received a warm response from Andrew Selous, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, who is going to connect us with the review of Youth Justice being conducted by Charlie Taylor.
Jane spoke at the National Housing Federation conference in September at a workshop on housing and employability for young people. You can read the blog she wrote about this here.
Finally, we continue to meet with MPs who have Foyers in their constituency, either at the Foyer or in Parliament. These visits have reaffirmed to us that parliamentarians from across the political spectrum are universally supportive of what their local Foyer achieves, and are willing to listen to the issues and barriers that prevent all young people from developing thriving and independent adulthood’s.