Cultural revolution

Supported housing organisations need to be
aware of the changes being introduced by the Supporting People
programme, says the Housing Corporation’s Nick

Most people in the supported housing sector
are conscious that their world is about to be turned upside down by
the Supporting People programme, but they usually focus on
procedural changes or funding issues. However, for support
providers to be successful in making the changes, adjustments to
procedures and financing must be accompanied by corresponding
changes in culture and attitudes. It will be those organisations
with an eye to the future that will thrive in this new and
unfamiliar landscape.

introduction of Supporting People on 1 April 2003 means that from
that date ownership of support services in the community will be
handed over to local administering authorities. Previously, in most
of the sector, the service provider had ownership. This will
undergo a radical reform as from that date local commissioning
groups, consisting of representatives from housing, social
services, probation and health, will commission and monitor support
services provided. Although, of course, landlords will still own
the physical buildings and the landlord services provided to
tenants of those buildings.

now providers have tended to view each individual scheme as a
stand-alone service, and examine the operation of each service at
the “micro” level. But with this change in ownership it will be
vital for providers to take a strategic view of support services,
and to view their services in the wider strategic

the Housing Corporation-funded regime, allowable support services
were very narrowly specified as a form of intensive housing
management, with the clear purpose of sustaining someone in their
tenancy. While this tenancy sustainment will still be a major part
of the Supporting People programme, it may not be the primary
objective in any support contract offered. The Supporting People
initiative is being promoted on the basis of a raft of preventive
programmes, the prevention of homelessness being just one among
many. For example, the Safer Cities programme aims to support
people who offend or who are at risk of offending, and the primary
purpose of services commissioned through this strategy may well be
to prevent people entering or re-entering the criminal justice
system. The challenge for providers – many of whom are also
landlords – is to ensure that the primary purpose of the service is
maintained and that their landlord interests do not

recent years, registered social landlords and voluntary agencies
have become comfortable with the notion of tenants being customers,
and have put great effort into developing this relationship. They
have informed tenants of the levels of service they can expect,
told them how to complain and many have gone as far as introducing
compensation policies for those times of service

However, for supported housing
services this has usually been confined to landlords’ side of the
equation. Support services are difficult to define, which has not
helped in specifying standards. Consequently, customers have had
less information on the type and level of service, and monitoring
and evaluation of effectiveness have suffered accordingly. There
has not been the same level of consumer relationship in these
services as in landlord services.

introduction of Supporting People and the splitting of support from
landlord services will for the first time put the spotlight on
those support services. Providers will be held accountable to
service users in a new way. Support services will need to be
provided to specified, acceptable standards, and all of this
communicated to the service recipient. For support service
providers to thrive in the new Supporting People system there will
need to be a clear separation between those accountabilities they
have as landlords, and those they have as support

changes that Supporting People will bring to the supported housing
sector are fundamental. They herald a significant cultural change,
with which the sector has to engage urgently and with commitment.
The policy holds out the real promise of producing the strategic
support services that should exist for vulnerable people. It is
those providers who recognise and adapt to these changes who will
be able to move towards the Supporting People future with

Nick Sweet is national co-ordinator
for the Housing Corporation’s Supporting People work.

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