NIFHA has responded to the DSD’s consultation on the ‘principles of a person’s own home’. It is intended that this definition of what is a person’s ‘own home’ will under-pin the development of a new regulatory framework for housing-related support services funded through the Supporting People programme.
Our response makes the following key points:
Regulation of housing support services:
- SP services are already subject to rigorous quality monitoring through the Quality Assessment Framework (QAF) run by the Housing Executive. However where both housing support and care are provided, members can experience overlap, duplication and inconsistencies in the approaches of different regulators.
- NIFHA therefore welcomes a more co-ordinated approach to regulation. Any new regime should be guided by the ‘Better Regulation Principles’ that emphasise that effective regulation is risk-based, proportionate and independent. Also, when SP services are delivered overwhelmingly by non-statutory bodies, it is concerning that only public bodies are mentioned as having a role in the development of a new framework, with no apparent role for providers or indeed service users.
- Housing associations and their partners have expertise that can help the strengths and weaknesses of the current regulatory regimes and the ‘workability’ of potential new approaches. The merits of a co-regulatory approach (enforced self-regulation) should be seriously explored.
Principles of a person’s own home
- The principles of a person’s own home set out are essentially those that are being used by RQIA for their domiciliary care services inspections. We support these as guiding principles. The document notes there will always be some constraints in choice, particularly in the availability of housing.
- Many supported housing schemes help tenants acquire the skills necessary to live independently and move on to other types of accommodation to facilitate that. The essentially lime-limited nature of this provision will have to inform consideration of the appropriate and realistic exercising of the rights listed.
- The consultation document states that service users should be able to ‘choose who provides services.’ If this refers to the right to choose which organisation, as well which individuals, provide care and support, it will require changes to commissioning processes to work effectively and protect the viability of services.
- In balancing the need of landlords to make best use of stock with the need to ‘ensure individuals within long term supported schemes will have the same rights and conditions as persons living in private rented accommodation’, it may be that we need to consider the use of short-hold tenancies.
- In self contained supported living models, secure tenancy agreements may be most appropriate. However, ‘secure tenancy’ agreements are not always the most appropriate, for example in shared supported house accommodation.
- NIFHA has received authoritative legal advice from senior counsel that a licence can indeed be considered a form of tenancy in law. These uncertainties will need to be resolved as we move forward.
- We recommend that there should be greater clarity around the definition of supported living to accompany any guidance emerging from this consultation.
We look forward to working with our statutory partners and voluntary sector colleagues to ensure that any new regulatory system helps deliver great services to users, value-for-money to the taxpayer and a manageable operating environment for providers.