Vic Rayner explains supported housing

What is supported housing and who does it support?

Supported housing is an umbrella term which is applied to a whole range of housing based solutions for vulnerable people. These solutions have emerged over time and in response to pressing social needs to accommodate those who required support (and care) services, either to remain in the community or to overcome particular problems such as domestic abuse.  This makes the definition of supported housing problematic. It has been defined in many different ways dependant on who regulates, commissions, provides or uses the services. 

Supported housing can be described as any housing scheme where housing, support and sometimes care services are provided as an integrated package; however this definition does not reflect the scope of arrangements that now fall under its remit.  The following elements best describe its essence

  • The purpose of support is to enable service users to live as independently as possible within their community
  • Service users are empowered to become socially included in the wider sense of community participation. 
  • The support provided varies and relates to the nature of the accommodation. For instance, young people living in a foyer may receive support on site by support workers whereas people living in their own home may receive floating support within their own homes to enable them to sustain their accommodation
  • It is a finite and an increasingly limited resource which is not generally available but limited to those who are vulnerable.

Supported housing is distinct from general needs social housing because:

  • There are higher staff levels than other forms of social housing because support and care services are provided in addition to housing management.
  • It is commonly arranged through partnerships between different organisations, including statutory sector bodies and voluntary sector organisations.      
  • It is not confined to the ‘not for profit’ sector; companies and individuals manage schemes for those with support needs on a commercial basis.      
  • It usually requires higher levels of funding that may be provided by statutory bodies, grant giving trusts, corporate giving etc.

Supported housing caters for a wide range of client groups with diverse needs who require different levels of support in a range of accommodation models.  Often service users have complex or multiple needs; for example, some people with mental health problems may also have substance misuse issues and may be homeless.  Below is an indication of the groups of people who may require support, taken from definitions used in the Supporting People programme.  It is intended to demonstrate variety of needs not a definitive list.

Groups of people who may require support

  • Older People with Support Needs
  • Older people with Mental Health Problems / Dementia
  • Frail Elderly
  • People with Mental Health Problems
  • People with Learning Disabilities
  • People with a Physical or Sensory Disability
  • Single Homeless with Support Needs
  • People with Alcohol Problems
  • People with Drug Problems
  • Offenders or People at risk of Offending
  • Mentally Disordered Offenders
  • Young People at Risk
  • Young People leaving Care
  • Women at Risk of Domestic Violence
  • People with HIV/AIDS
  • Homeless Families with Support Needs
  • Refugees
  • Teenage Parents
  • Rough Sleepers
  • Travellers

The type of funding or contractual arrangement for the provision of support has often lead providers of services to designate services as short or long term/permanent. Short term services are usually intended to be a ‘bridge’ into less supportive more settled accommodation, for example a young person in the transition from care, or an intervention to provide support in a crisis or a time of need, for example to avoid eviction.  Long term or permanent provision recognises that some service users will always require some level of support for example someone with a profound learning disability.  Often service users may move between short and long terms services for example a person with metal health problems on discharge from hospital may move into short term residential care, then move into permanent supported housing.

Supported housing is commonly divided into two basic types of provision

  • Accommodation-based projects where vulnerable people live in a specifically designated property to receive support services; and
  • Non accommodation based projects where vulnerable people can receive the necessary support services irrespective of where they are living.      

Accommodation Based Supported Housing includes

  • Shared Supported Housing – a term commonly used in the sector to describe a temporary or permanent scheme where service users have their own room but share bathroom, kitchen and other communal areas with other service users.  Support is delivered by staff who may have an office in the property or visit on a regular basis. 
  • Self contained supported housing –  but where service users have their own flat or house.  Sometimes sited in a block or cluster of      the same type of provision and sometimes dispersed within a locality.  Support is provided by staff who may have an office in the block or offer a visiting service.
  • Hostel – accommodation where a larger number of service users have their own rooms and share communal areas with other service users.  Staffing is often provided on a 24 hour basis, 7 days a week and in some cases meals are provided.  
  • Bed and breakfast – temporary accommodation that is usually shared and provided by the local authority or on their behalf.  The      accommodation is provided for homeless people awaiting a decision as to whether the local authority will offer to house them under their statutory homeless duties.  Support is not always provided but it has become increasingly common.
  • Women’s Refuge – temporary accommodation for women (and their children) who have experienced domestic violence.  Women often share a room with their children and share other communal areas with other women and their families.  Support is provided by workers sometimes 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
  • Housing for Older People (sometimes called sheltered) – accommodation that is specifically for older people usually over 55 and predominately in self contained houses or flats.  The support is provided by a warden who may live on the site or support staff who visit the property. Some schemes are designated ‘extra care’      where meals and care may be provided in addition to support.
  • Residential Care Home – can be temporary or permanent accommodation registered under the Care Standards Act 2000 to provide accommodation, support and personal care to service      users.  Service users usually have their own room and share communal areas, however some newer homes have private as well as communal cooking and washing facilities. Support and care are provided by workers for 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
  • Foyer for Young People – temporary accommodation for young people (usually 17-25 years) with support and access to employment training and education.  The accommodation may be shared or self contained. Support is provided by staff who have usually have an office on site and may be available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
  • Teenage Parent Accommodation – temporary accommodation specifically for young people (usually aged 17-21 years) who have become, or are about to become parents.  Service users often share a room with their babies and share kitchen, bathroom and communal areas with other service users.  Support is provided  by support workers who have an office on site.
  • Almshouses – permanent usually self contained accommodation often targeted at the older poor of a locality or those from certain categories of employment. The accommodation is generally managed by a charity or the trustees of a bequest.      
  • Shared Ownership Schemes – permanent self contained accommodation where the service user buys part of the equity of the property (for example 70%) and  Leasehold Schemes for the Elderly (LSE) which usually have the option of support when the service user requires it provided by a support worker located in an office nearby. 
  • Supported Lodgings and Adult Placements- an individual rents out rooms in their home and provides support to a service user with support needs.  The most common arrangement is the service      user will have their own room but share bathroom kitchen and other communal areas with the individual who usually provides the support.

Non accommodation based support housing

  • Floating Support Services – support that is provided usually on a temporary basis to service users by a visiting support worker to enable the service user to sustain their tenancy and remain in their home.
  • Resettlement Services – support services that enable people who have lived in supported or temporary accommodation, to effect a successful transition to a permanent home and sustain their accommodation.
  • Outreach Services – usually an accommodation based scheme provides support services to service users in the community.  This service is usually on a less formal basis than floating support running advice session or surgeries.
  • Community / Alarm Services – usually associated with older people where an alarm is provided for emergency use in the service users’ home. Support services are thus provided when needed to enable service users to stay in their own home.
  • Home Improvement Services – schemes that are designed to support service users in acquiring the aids and adaptation they require to stay in their own home.