Unfortunately our wonderful city of Birmingham has all to often, negatively, made national headlines when it comes to the provision of Exempt Supported Accommodation.
A sector of housing which was supposed to provide accommodation and support for vulnerable people has been manipulated by unscupulous people, who have profited greatly but provided little in return. Still Waters House exists to model something different, as well as to work with others to create something better for all.
Despite clear legislation and regulations around housing provision it is a sad truth that a significant amount of the properties used to house people in Supported Accommodation are far from suitable and in some cases downright dangerous. A big advantage of the Still Waters House model is that we are a totally not for profit organisation which is predominently run by volunteers - nobody is getting rich and so we do not worry about maintaining profits.
Our property has been brought up to meet the full Houses of Multiple Occupation requirements. Upon taking ownership of the house we spent a lot of time and money getting things safe and right, before we even began to look for a resident. We are fully committed to ensuring that our current, and all future properties, remain great places to live, safe and secure.
We welcome new systems and regulations being brought into place to make it much harder for 'get rich quick' accommodation to find a foothold in our city.
Exempt Supported Accommodation landlords receive extra money through Housing Benefit based on the requirement to offer significant support to ensure their residents are able to maintain their accommodation and move forward, equipped and ready to secure independent housing. Unfortunately, too often very little if any support is delivered.
"The landlord only ever showed up on rent day" is a sentence all to often heard. And stories of landlords threatening residents to keep their mouths shut about poor support and unsuitable accommodation are recounted over and over again by people who have no where else to go and no one else to turn to.
Still Waters House has developed extremely clear Support Items which we have agreed with the local authority. We keep accurate records of our support meetings and the outcomes of those meetings. We invite all our residents to regularly offer feedback on the support they have received.
One of the reasons that things have been able to go so wrong in this sector of housing is that for too long it was thought no one was looking. Resources have been stretched too tight to be able to keep a proper eye on what has been going on. And so, those people who wanted to abuse the system thought they could get away with it. And to a degree that has been true it seems.
Recently Birmingham City Council has been working hard with reputable supported housing providers to sort things out. This has led to a 'Residents Charter' which empowers those living within supported accommodation to understand their rights and have a voice. It has also led to a Quality Standards Award scheme for landlords. Although voluntary at the present time, this begins to re-empower the local authority to deal with the problems. Still Waters House is currently working towards implementing the Resident Charter and applying for the Quality Standard. We welcome these efforts to create a better Supported Accommodation provision.
Still Waters House believes that accountability is paramount. We are accountable to our national partner 'Green Pastures', who ensure we deliver what we promise through regional management, regular reporting, and requirements to evidence that we are maintaining our property and support delivery to a high standard.