Over the last decade, we’ve seen a huge reduction in funding for supported housing. It has been so challenging that many Registered Providers no longer provide any direct support themselves. The decision to make support housing exempt from the rent cap reflected that reality, and at the same time reflected the fact that supported housing costs are high and hugely affected by the cost-of-living crisis.
At Hestia, we support over 15,000 vulnerable adults and children each year, some of whom live in supported housing. The people we support include women and children fleeing domestic abuse, adults with mental health problems, children leaving care and adults leaving prison and hospital.
Over the past year, Hestia along with everyone else in the country, has seen costs rise dramatically. Our staff have been under intense pressure due to the cost-of-living crisis, helping residents through economic pressures, whilst struggling themselves. These staff members are the same people who went in person to work each day during the covid-19 pandemic, keeping all our supported housing services open and ensuring that we did not have any major infection outbreaks. Despite all of their hard work and the difficulties of the cost-of-living crisis, they have not had consolidated pay rises for several years.
At Hestia, we have two main sources of income – rents and support contracts. We have asked all our support commissioners and Registered Provider partners for uplifts to allow us to offer a consolidated pay increase in 2023/24. While many Registered Providers have been supportive, offering us uplifts on the management fee in line with the average 7-11.1% rent rises they have applied, a small number have not.
We partner as a Managing Agent with 18 Registered Providers across London. Like the Registered Provider world, the number of Managing Agents has decreased significantly over the last two decades. Most Managing Agents are charities without significant capital assets, but they are asset-rich in dedicated and skilled people who have the knowledge and experience to support and empower vulnerable and struggling tenants.
In challenging times, the partnerships between us matter more than ever before. I think we need each other to be vibrant and viable if vulnerable tenants are to be empowered and supported. To believe that we will not have any additional costs after the last twelve months serves neither of us nor those we support.
We must work together to forge strong partnerships and call for more secure funding for our sector, so we can achieve our aim of supporting our residents through tough times.