Providing tailored housing will save money in the long term

Some local authorities have invested heavily in out-of-date shared supported living models and are now regretting their agreements to meet longer-term property needs. People with learning disabilities are now less willing or able to be fitted into convenient properties.


Community living for all means meeting people’s more complex needs with tailored provision. Given the cost pressures on housing associations and providers, local authorities and community support providers, there can be a temptation to ride roughshod over tenants’ needs and preferences to minimise costs and fill properties, even move people out to hand them back. Few of us would be happy to be moved out of our chosen lifetime home and local neighbourhood, nor to have co-tenants moved in who will disrupt our home life.


Unfortunately, this can still too easily be imposed on people unable to speak out and with today’s short-term tenancies such poor practice can be legitimatised. Moving house is recognised as causing acute stress, the more so for people with autism or learning disabilities who may have limited understanding or control over such a move. Providers too can feel pressured by commissioners to place someone in a property who is unsuitable for sharing – and the casualties are the co-tenants as well as the person themselves. Where this is being considered, in the absence of a suitable or willing relative, an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate should be involved in scrutinising the arrangement but one suspects rarely are. Under the new Care Act, we should see the involvement of advocates to ensure good support where significant changes are proposed – but will we? With the lack of accountability on commissioners, some people may have ended up in Assessment and Treatment Units, not because they needed treatment but because no one took sufficient account of their housing needs.


The ‘one size fits all approach’ which the sector has historically seemingly adopted, is not the answer. Individuals’ housing aspirations and needs demand a varied approach. Whilst there are pressures on commissioners and providers to enable cost-effective solutions, let’s not see these perpetrated at the expense of what is needed by each individual. Let’s rather find solutions matched to real preferences. I suggest this will prove far more cost-effective in the long term.


Rosemary Trustam