With Starts at Home Day just two weeks away (31 August), Jeremy Gray, CEO of Evolve Housing + Support, shares his experience of how influencing through campaigns like Starts at Home has secured the future funding of supported housing.
“Demand for our services is high, and increasing, and yet over the last three years our services have been under threat due to a series of government policy proposals, all of which have been unhelpful at best, devastating at worst.
The risk to our services began in 2015 with the proposal to cap supported housing rents at Local Housing Allowance (LHA) levels. If this had gone ahead, it would have obliterated large parts of the supported housing sector: in our case, it would have meant the loss of up to 600 of our 700 supported housing units.
Croydon has always been our biggest borough – we started work there way back in 1861 – and we’ve always worked hard to build good relationships with all local MPs. So we were delighted when Gavin Barwell, at the time MP for Croydon Central, became the latest occupant of the Housing Minister’s hot seat shortly after the announcement on LHA caps. Because of the previous engagement we’d done with him, he already knew our services and the vital role they played. We moved quickly to make sure he understood the serious implications of the LHA cap proposals.
We continued to engage with Gavin, wrote to all of our MPs and invited politicians to see our schemes to highlight the issues of both the LHA cap and the subsequent proposals, which would have also led to many supported housing services across the country closing.
I firmly believe that our work, and the sector coming together doing similar work, has meant that politicians up and down the country have understood the value of supported housing. Although Gavin wasn’t in post by the time the LHA cap proposal was dropped, he did move into a role at the heart of Government as Downing Street Chief of Staff, so retained a high – if not higher – level of influence.”