Sheffield Liberal Democrats have proposed a motion to a Full Council meeting to tackle runaway problems of inflated costs and poor quality support in the city’s supported accommodation sector.
Supported accommodation is housing which provides additional support for vulnerable people, including people who have previously been homeless, who struggle with alcohol or drug problems, or who have additional mental health or disability needs. This housing is often provided in shared houses in the community, with a large concentration in Firth Park, Page Hall and Darnall.
When provided well, this support is crucial to help vulnerable people get back on their feet and move on to their own homes. However, Liberal Democrat research has revealed that private, non-regulated supported accommodation is thriving in Sheffield, often providing very poor support leading to people slipping back into homelessness, and costing the council £3.5m a year in lost Housing Benefit.
One provider had been prosecuted for providing “unsafe and unsatisfactory accommodation”, while another had been found to be perpetrating “institutional financial abuse of residents”.
The majority of placements were with one provider, which was found to be providing a minimal level of support (around one hour every two weeks) while costing the council over £2.5m a year.
For-profit accommodation providers often provide this low level of support while receiving enormous amounts of rental income (often thousands a month for a single property), all ultimately funded by Sheffield taxpayers.
The Liberal Democrat motion calls for the Housing Committee to investigate these unregulated providers to ensure they’re providing quality support and value for money, as well as supporting new powers from Government to introduce a licensing scheme for supported accommodation, and requiring organisations the Council commissions to avoid using unregulated supported accommodation where an alternative exists.
Cllr Penny Baker, Deputy Chair of the Housing Committee, said:-
“The amount this accommodation costs the council has exploded – from half a million pounds last February, to over three and a half today. I’m concerned that Green Party Housing leadership has been asleep at the wheel on this issue.
What’s even more concerning is that the people who need help seem to be being let down by many of these providers – from tenants paying rent for full support while only receiving the bare minimum, to more serious failures in the quality of homes and safeguarding of vulnerable people.
The Council will be consulted by Government soon on whether we’d like new powers to regulate this accommodation, and our motion takes the proactive step of supporting regulation, while lobbying Government for money to relieve the significant burden this accommodation places on Sheffield taxpayers.”