Today is a national day of action. #StartsAtHome aims to highlight the importance of supported social housing, including projects like the Ludlow Foyer. Young people have been out in the Market Square today, explaining how the Foyer is helping them get from a crisis into work, education and training. They are telling people that funding for the Foyer is under threat from national and local budget cuts. There is every danger that, despite its groundbreaking work, the Foyer will close in 2018.
Closing Ludlow Foyer would be crazy. It would mean that young people would end up on the streets and would not get the help they need to get a good start in adult life.
Ludlow Foyer is highly regarded for its work with young people. It provides a secure and supported pathway from a difficult childhood into work and independent accommodation. Last February, I wrote about growing threats to its funding and the danger the Foyer will close. Those threats still exist.
The government is currently reviewing how supported housing is funded. I believe that it must fully fund supported housing and put these vital services on a long term sustainable footing. But that is not what it is planning. It is proposing to cap housing related benefits to a level known as the “Local Housing Allowance” for new tenancies. The cap comes in from April 2018 and will hit the Foyer quickly because residents are only allowed a two-year tenancy. The cap pins housing benefit to a shared room rate – the accommodation in the Foyer is single bedrooms – and will not cover the full service charges of a housing scheme that provides 24×7 support.
A second threat to the Foyer comes from cuts to Shropshire Council’s supported housing budget. Currently this is £3.1 million. In April 2017, that budget could be cut by nearly two-thirds (£1.9 million). There will not be enough money to support projects like the Foyer.
Today is the National Housing Federation’s Starts at Home Day. The campaign wants people who need extra support always to have a home that meets their needs. This includes people with disabilities, women fleeing domestic violence, older people and young people coming out of care. Ludlow’s new campaign group, People4Ludlow, has organised a day of action in the town, including a sleep out tonight (1 September – meet at the Buttercross at 9.15pm).
It would be a disaster for young people if the Foyer were to close. It is one of Shropshire’s great success stories. It shelters, guides and trains young people. Most young people leave the Foyer with jobs and much better chances in life. If we didn’t have the Foyer, some of the youngsters would drift into homelessness. Others would fail to find jobs. This would cost us more in benefits that the Foyer costs. But most importantly, young people will not have been helped.
We have a duty to help young people in difficulty. We cannot discard a whole generation of vulnerable young people. That will only store up problems and costs for the future.
 For a briefing on the government’s policy Local Housing Allowance caps, including for the supported housing sector, see the recent House of Commons Library note on Paying for supported housing.
 People4Ludlow has published a briefing on the threats to the Foyer.