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Norman Lamb warns of ‘chilling’ impact of new housing plans on Fakenham

PUBLISHED: 18:00 04 August 2017 | UPDATED: 18:25 04 August 2017

Norman Lamb has warned about the 'chilling' impact of government funding plans on Fakenham's elderly. Photo: Liberal Democrats

Norman Lamb has warned about the 'chilling' impact of government funding plans on Fakenham's elderly. Photo: Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrats

Elderly residents in Fakenham risk being neglected if a new supported housing scheme does not go ahead, an MP has warned.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has said that government plans pose a threat to the development in Fakenham, and called the impact of these proposals “chilling”.

Proposals have been submitted for a Housing with Care scheme to create 66 new homes, with 24 hour support from a team of carers, for elderly residents in Fakenham.

But progress on the scheme has stalled due to the funding uncertainty caused by government plans to cap the amount of housing benefit that can be spent on supported housing in line with Local Housing Authority (LHA) limits.

Steve Blatch, a corporate director at North Norfolk District Council revealed in a letter to Mr Lamb that, despite planning permission being granted, progress on the development of 66 homes has stopped.

He stated: “this scheme is at risk of being financially unviable.”

Mr Lamb has written to the Housing Minister, Alok Sharma, to demand reassurances from the government that the Fakenham scheme, and other such developments, will be able to proceed. He stated that he is “very concerned” by the issue.

Housing with Care is a form of supported housing which allows elderly or disabled people to live in flats independently.

It serves as an alternative to a move into care or a nursing home, as access to a team of carers is available 24 hours a day, to provide support if needed by residents.

Commenting further on the threat to Housing with Care, Mr Lamb described the scheme as “vital in allowing older people to maintain their independence”.

He said: “I am deeply concerned about the impact of these plans, which seem to be having a chilling effect on investment in new supported housing in Norfolk.”

He stated that the program is being put at risk by the ongoing uncertainty.

“No new schemes are proceeding and the viability of existing schemes has also been thrown into doubt.

“We need to maintain a strong supply of supported housing to meet the needs of an older population, so it is critically important that ministers act quickly to address this uncertainty by announcing that any shortfall between rents and the LHA cap will be covered by central government.

“It would amount to a neglect of the needs of older people if this situation is allowed to drag on.”

Government changes to supported housing funding system

The government’s proposed reforms to the rent system for supported housing include introducing a cap on housing benefit.

The amount of housing benefit that may be used to cover supported housing rent will be limited to the level of the relevant Local Housing Authority (LHA). This will apply from April 2019.

This poses a problem for LHA as there will be a shortfall between the actual rents and the housing benefit available to cover them.

While the government has consulted on a new funding model whereby local authorities would receive ring-fenced ‘top-up’ funding to cover this anticipated shortfall, the outcome of the consultation is still unknown.

There are serious concerns that Housing with Care schemes – which have higher rents than other housing schemes – will no longer be financially viable.

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