Thursday, 28 January 2016

Chancellor’s cuts put supported homes for elderly and vulnerable people in Wigan at risk

This week I supported a vote to halt Conservative plans to cut housing benefit support for thousands of elderly and vulnerable people across the country, which could put at risk supported homes in Wigan.

Supported housing provides specialist care for groups including the elderly, the homeless, disabled people, veterans, people with mental health problems, young people leaving care and women fleeing domestic violence.

Experts say that across the country 156,000 supported homes are at risk of closure due to the Chancellor’s cuts.

In Parliament Labour called on George Osborne to exempt supported housing from his housing benefit cuts and to consult with charities, councils and housing associations to safeguard this vital accommodation. However, Conservative MPs voted down Labour’s motion to protect these homes.

During the debate I made reference to the extra care scheme on the former Abraham Guest School site at Orrell. The scheme is just about to start, but the government benefit changes potentially undermine the revenue stream going forward and not surprisingly this has put this £13m scheme in jeopardy.

Cutting across all these categories, one of the largest effects of this new government policy will be the disruption and uncertainty it has brought to the provision of new accommodation in this field.

Wigan Council and partners have the following social housing development pipeline. All of these are either funded or with outstanding bids to Housing and Communities Agency.

Currently on site, Wigan and Leigh Housing have apartment blocks for older people at Town Yards, Hindley and a sheltered plus scheme at Little Lane, Goose Green potentially providing over 60 new homes.

In addition to the Abraham Guest site (130 homes) Extra Care Sheltered Housing schemes currently proposed include Whelley Hospital (80 homes) and at Hilton Park (Leigh 121 homes)

I am angry that if the benefit proposals are not fundamentally changed it is unlikely that any of these schemes will proceed. This would have disastrous effects on Wigan Council and its partners strategy of Connecting Housing and Care and its links with the wider Public Reforms and Health Agenda.

One of the largest effects of this new government policy will be the disruption and uncertainty it has brought to the provision of new accommodation.

The long lead in times to deliver projects of this type mean that providers need certainty. So I am calling on the Government to provide clarity in order to avoid delay and possible cancellation of much needed housing in the Wigan Borough.

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