By John Verge, Chief Executive, Golden Lane Housing.

The recent BBC Panorama investigation into the housing charity My Space Housing Solutions has drawn wider public attention and awareness to allegations of poor service quality and governance in some parts of the supported housing sector.

My Space Housing Solutions’ response has been to stress the invaluable work of their teams in supporting their tenants and to deny any conflict of interest with the property developer revealed in the programme. It is important that these allegations are properly investigated, and the Charity Commission has now confirmed they’ve an active regulatory compliance case into the charity.

This follows on from a non-compliance judgement from the Regulator of Social Housing in December 2020.

Over recent years similar concerns over other support housing providers have been highlighted in the housing media by regulators, campaigners, and politicians. This led to this year’s ministerial statement indicating more local government oversight for supported housing and future changes to exempt housing benefit rules.

We are also expecting shortly the findings of the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee inquiry into exempt accommodation and there are certain to be recommendations for increased regulation and oversight over supported housing.

But what the programme failed to address were the policy decisions that have created the conditions for the changes in market provision at a period of increasing need and demand.  Over the last decade we have seen many traditional housing associations step away from providing supported housing, and that gap has been filled by new players using long term lease arrangements.

There are numerous reasons for this, and they include – uncertainty over welfare benefits, focus of government on home ownership, the complexity of bespoke supported housing, and the additional expense of supported housing that cannot be readily provided through the existing affordable housing grant funding route.

For those tenants highlighted in the Panorama programme one of the biggest impacts has been the decimation of the Supported People funding, which before the ringfenced local government funding was removed provided invaluable, regulated housing based and floating support provision.

This has led to many tenants having to personally fund their own support in non-commissioned supported housing where there is no local government support funding and Housing Benefit rules do not allow support, care, or supervision to be paid.  Consequently, it is not surprising that the level of support provided by some housing providers fail to meet the expectations and needs of many tenants.

Providers who allegedly take advantage of the housing benefit regulations for their own or other’s personal benefit should continue to be scrutinised.

But the government and regulators need to work with the compliant part of sector to offer real solutions to address these systemic issues. Housing associations and commissioners can deliver quality accommodation for a variety of needs by working strategically together. But they need adequate support and housing revenue funding and increased level of capital grant funding.

Regulation alone will not solve the current crisis in the sector.