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A proposed cap on Housing Benefit could see the North East’s supported housing residents asked to make up a shortfall of more than £89 a week to pay rent. According to figures from the Starts at Home campaign, roughly 3,600 could be affected in the first year alone.

The Starts at Home campaign aims to highlight the importance of supported housing, a diverse sector made up of schemes that provide extra care and support ranging from women’s refuges and specialist dementia accommodation to veterans’ services. On 1 September, housing associations are taking part in ‘Starts at Home Day’ – a day of campaigning to celebrate supported housing across England.

In the North East, there are more than 26,000 living in this type of housing, more than half of whom are older people. The estimated £89 a week shortfall in Housing Benefit would mean that vulnerable residents need to find an extra £4,600 a year to cover their rent.

The Federation has welcomed a Government review into how supported housing is funded, with an announcement expected soon. However, the continuing threat of the Local Housing Allowance cap continues to cause uncertainty over the future of this essential type of accommodation and support. Across the country, an estimated 156,000 homes or 41% of all supported housing would become unviable and be forced to close if the cap were implemented. Building work on 2,400 new specialist homes has already been cancelled as a result of the threat alone.

If current trends continue, a rapidly aging population means that there will be 50,000 fewer supported housing homes than needed each year by 2025.

Jo Allen, External Affairs Manager at the National Housing Federation said: “Some of the most vulnerable people in the North East are supported by housing associations – and it cannot be right that they lose the £89 per week that helps keep a roof over their heads.

“The Government has already said that these tenants will continue to receive the support they need, but providers need to hear how it will do this. Any future funding model should provide peace of mind and security to those people who most sorely need it.”

Case study – Jodie, North Star Housing

“Throughout life people can face major traumas and dramatic changes to their lives, and sometimes you’re going to need extra support to get back on track. I ended up in hospital. I had a complete nervous breakdown after being injured in a car accident. I was discharged from hospital without a house to live in, without anywhere to go. That’s when I found North Star’s Hestia project, they helped me find a place to live and they’ve supported me every step of the way, helping me get my life back on track.

“When you’ve been in hospital, you’ve been ill or you’ve experienced a major trauma in your life, and your whole world is turned upside down, you need to go into a well-structured, well-balanced, supportive environment where you really trust the people that are looking after you.

“You don’t want to be looked after for the rest of your life, you want to get your independence back, but without projects like this it would be absolutely impossible for people to regain a level of independence and stability. For me, supported accommodation is fundamental for people’s recovery and I dread to think how my life would have turned out without it.”