The Prime Minister’s recent announcement that the Local Housing Allowance cap would no longer apply to supported housing was greeted with cheers from the MPs present, and a similar reaction was no doubt elicited from housing providers across the country.

The planned cap has resulted in a stall on investment in the sector for the last two years. A 2017 survey of housing associations by the National Housing Federation found that number of supported, sheltered and extra care housing schemes being built has decreased from 8,800 to 1,350 units since the proposed cap was announced.1

The Government’s decision to rethink its approach to social and supported housing should do much to restore confidence in the market, reassuring both users and providers. There remains some uncertainty with greater reassurance being needed about wider funding for care and support costs under the planned proposals. However, it is clear that the provision of a social alarm or telecare systems will be of increasing importance in supporting older and other vulnerable people.

More than 700,000 people live in supported accommodation, including sheltered housing, and demand is growing. As with health and social care, new models of service delivery are required to ensure housing providers can offer the right level of support to some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Efficiency is a priority of course, in order for us to manage this rising demand, but achieving greater integration of services and taking a more preventative approach also benefits the user. Avoiding deterioration in independence or health, and providing coordinated services can also improve quality of life for the user, and the people that may care for them.

The DCLG’s October 2017 document, ‘Supported Housing: New funding model for supported housing’, described three key areas for sheltered and extra care supported housing, one of which was to ‘provide support which keeps people independent [and] offers a real alternative to residential care’. 2

Our experience is that  technology enabled housing can play an important role in providing a foundation for new models of care, helping to ensure the right amount of support is delivered at the right time. It enables integration and insight, facilitating a collaborative and person-centred approach. Solutions are flexible to individuals’ changing needs, ensuring accommodation is suitable for a wide range of scenarios and that any investment adds value, not just today but well into the future. As digital etransformation gathers pace across the health, housing and social care landscape, the opportunities to improve care and support and address funding challenges are increasing. As well as managing risk and promoting independence, the latest generation of digital Connected Healthcare solutions broaden the benefits to users; for example, by enabling social inclusion and supporting carers and families regardless of their location.

The return of stability to the supported housing market in terms of funding gives providers a distinct opportunity to examine how they will approach the future and the role technology can play in their strategy. Decisions made today need to ensure an infrastructure for tomorrow’s developments. We’ve seen this in our work with Riverside in Hull where its extra care developments feature Tunstall’s Communicall Vi IP systems, providing a digital platform which has the capability to evolve as technology advances, ensuring that Riverside’s investment will work for residents today and for many years into the future. The apartments are designed to be adaptable so customers can continue to live within their communities as their needs change over time, and the development offers homes to a range of adults over 18, including those with physical and/or learning disabilities, those living with dementia, couples and families.

Technology is one of the ways the development provides a balance of independence and reassurance, with a single platform providing alarm reporting, access control, telecare and free on-site calls to services and other residents. Communicall Vi IP has been designed to enable providers to offer additional services via wi-fi over time as required, helping to make the development a comfortable home for life.

We look forward to hearing more following the conclusion of the Government’s consultation period in January next year, and will continue to work with our customers to help them include technology in their approaches to deliver efficient and future-proof services which enhance tenant satisfaction.

And finally, we will also be working with the Housing LIN in early 2018 to run a couple regional events which will explore the issues I have raised in this blog further. We look forward to announcing the dates shortly.