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Supported housing funding reforms set to hit mentally ill hardest

Government plans will force widespread service closures, fear staff

Caroline White

Friday, 29 June 2018

Government plans to change the funding of supported housing are likely to take a heavy toll on people with severe mental health issues, making it harder for them to access these services and forcing them into hospital, the charity Rethink Mental Health has warned.

Its report* published earlier this week, which draws on feedback from 117 members of staff working in supported housing for people with mental ill health, shows that most respondents (84%) believe that the plans would most likely result in service closures.

Under the proposals, anyone needing supported housing for fewer than two years would have to rely on local authorities to fund the housing they need. Instead of being supported to live independently in the community, people with mental illness are more likely to face distressing and unnecessary stays in hospital because of these plans, says the report.

The findings echo concerns that have already been expressed by charities, the housing sector, and investors, and give a stark illustration of the impact they could have, says the charity.

Some 81% of respondents believe that people who need mental health supported housing will be less likely to get the support they need if they are reliant on local authority funding.

And more than half (60%) feel that their service helps to reduce demand on the NHS and would have enormous cost implications if it were to close.

Only just over one in 10 (12%) are confident that demand for mental health supported housing will be met in their area under the proposals. People severely affected by mental illness will have to compete with other vulnerable groups for limited funding.

And nearly three-quarters of respondents (72%) believe that the supply of mental health supported housing will be reduced if it is removed. The same proportion believe that investment in short-term services will fall if the new model is introduced.

“The overwhelming view of the service managers and staff that we spoke to was that the government’s reforms will make mental health supported housing harder to access for the people whose lives it is designed to transform. If enacted, thousands of vulnerable people could go without the support they need, and there would be enormous additional costs for the NHS,” the charity warns.

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said: “This vital and timely report is impossible to ignore. It is deeply disturbing to think that individuals suffering from mental ill-health can find themselves without essential support at the most vulnerable time of their lives.

“Supported housing plays a crucial role in preventing homelessness for people with mental health issues and reduces the amount of hospital delayed discharges, providing the best chance for a full recovery.”

He added: “Under the current proposals, short-term tenants have no guarantees their housing costs will be covered and will be forced to live day-to-day without the security of a tenancy agreement.

“The system being further destabilised, and already cash-strapped councils being landed with yet another funding burden, will only place further pressure on the health and care system,” he insisted.

“It is imperative the government considers the findings in this report when deciding its plans for funding social housing this summer.”

*This could cost lives. A frontline view on the funding of supported housing. A report by Rethink Mental Illness, June 2018.

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