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Those of us who are lucky enough to live independently take many things for granted: homes fit for our needs; the freedom to come and go as we please; and the sense of being part of a wider community – whether that comes from knowing people in the same neighbourhood, the same street or even the same stairwell.
For some of the most vulnerable people in society however, these benefits are not guaranteed. People with a variety of needs – ranging from mental-health conditions to physical and sensory impairments – are often unable to live in the social housing that’s most appropriate for them - where accommodation, support staff and sometimes care services form part of an integrated package.
Why? Because there is a desperate shortage of specialised ‘supported housing’ across the UK. The National Housing Federation projects a shortfall of 29,000 supported housing units for the current year, rising to more than 46,000 by 2025. The most immediate consequence of this is that people with special needs are placed in accommodation that is not adapted to suit their specific needs or worse, they are moved into institutional care homes or hospitals – isolating these individuals from their local community and at the same time, increasing pressure on already creaking facilities.
Typically, these type of institutional facilities are designed for people with severe or debilitating health conditions and are ill-suited and inappropriate for people who are capable of living much more independent lives. They are also hugely expensive: keeping these people in hospital or placing them in full-time care is extremely costly for their local authorities.
For many of these individuals, the opportunity to move into purpose-built supported housing can be trans-formative. In some cases, specialised supported housing can act as a stepping stone that allows people to transition to fully independent living in the longer term. However, for most, supported housing provides life-long support, helping them to live independently and form part of the wider community.
The positive impact of having a permanent home to call your own cannot be understated. There is clear evidence that supported housing leads to better physical and mental health. By providing safety, stability and care, supported housing creates a range of better outcomes for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Unfortunately, the current funding constraints on local governments mean that the shortfall in supported housing is not being adequately addressed. This is where the private sector and more specifically institutional investors can play a crucial role, working alongside government and housing associations to relieve the pressure on care facilities and hospitals and improve the living conditions of thousands of vulnerable people.
Investment into social housing allows institutional investors to make a positive social impact and at the same time provide their pension schemes with steady and sustainable income streams.
By creating either new, purpose-built supported housing or adapting existing accommodation, we are able to offer more affordable alternatives to local authorities and housing associations, save the government money and, ultimately, deliver better outcomes for people with special needs. That impact can be considerable. The degree of independence afforded to these residents, from living in specially adapted accommodation, enables them to socialise more widely and develop new skills – such as learning to drive or cook. In some cases, our residents are able to enter training or employment – whether paid or voluntary. All of this helps to optimise and stabilise their lives.
“People are usually the happiest at home.”
This article was written by Jennifer Ockwell, Partner and Head of Institutional at Triple Point