Southdown urge parliamentary candidates to address critical issues affecting vulnerable people.


In a letter that was sent to parliamentary candidates this week, our Chief Executive, Neil Blanchard, has outlined three critical issues affecting vulnerable people across Sussex.  The letter is shared below:   

Dear Parliamentary Candidate,

Ahead of the General Election in December, I am writing to ask for your support to highlight within your campaign critical issues that threaten the future provision of vital services for some of the most vulnerable members of your constituency.

About us

Southdown Housing Association is a Sussex-based, not-for-profit organisation. Our primary purpose is to support vulnerable people to overcome personal challenges and develop fulfilling lives. In addition to acting as a landlord for 650 tenants with complex support needs, we provide community-based support for over 10,200 people a year. Our services include supported housing, homelessness prevention, supported employment, community wellbeing services, mental health recovery services, GP-based social prescribing and residential learning disability services. We have a turnover of £27 million and employ 950 staff.

Our operating environment

For Southdown, with close to 100% of our income being via public sector funding, the past decade of austerity has had significant impact on the services we provide for vulnerable people across Sussex. As an organisation, we have been subject to sustained funding cuts at a time of increasing cost pressures and demand for our services. In particular, there has been a marked withdrawal of funding for homeless prevention services, which has directly led to increases in the use of temporary accommodation by local authorities and people sleeping on our streets or sofa surfing.  

Ahead of the General Election, we have heard many declarations from across the political spectrum of proposed increased funding and investment for social care, health and housing services. Although the rhetoric of this is positive, after ten years of being at the receiving end of austerity measures, you may appreciate our caution as to how promptly and effectively these promises will translate into sustained funding and improved services for the most vulnerable people in our communities.

As part of the campaigning process, we would like you to consider the following three key issues, which we feel your support for would make a real impact:

  1. Adequate and stable funding for Adult Social Care

It is widely accepted that without the much-delayed green paper on social care, there remains a lack of any long-term strategy to tackle the underlying issues of increasing demand for care and support[1]. This can no longer be kicked down the road, being seen as too politically sensitive to tackle. If we wish to be a fair and caring society, we need to fund our adult social care services appropriately. Appreciating that any fundamental changes to funding will take a considerable time to design and implement for the financial year 2020/21, we request that additional central funding be provided to local authorities to not only cover inflationary cost rises but also address years of erosion of vital social care and homeless services.

2)  Address recruitment crisis for care and support roles
It is well documented that there is a recruitment crisis in the care sector[2]. An ageing population and the associated increase in the number of people with disabilities means by 2025 the adult social care sector in England will need to add approximately one million carers to its existing 1.5 million.

     At Southdown, despite being accredited a ‘best employer’, paying above the local sector pay rates and offering permanent contracts to all staff, flexible working hours and excellent training packages, our overall staff turnover for care roles is 30%. On average, we receive only 1.5 applications for every job advertised. It is important to state that our recruitment issue isn’t related to skills shortage; we provide a full induction programme for candidates without previous experience. In addition, we have significant fears about the future impact of Brexit on our staffing and recruitment; 10% of our care staff are European nationals.

     We identify the primary issue to be resolved is that pay needs to be sufficient to attract and retain staff and enable them to afford to live locally in Sussex.

     It is great that all political parties have indicated plans to increase the National Living Wage (NLW). Within Southdown, to be competitive against other employers, we offer our entry point support worker salaries above NLW, but have to keep this differential in line with annual uplifts to NLW. Despite NLW increasing on average by 4.4%, we have not received corresponding inflationary fee increases from our commissioners. This has led our Care and Support Division to be now operating at a deficit level. We have stated to commissioners and local politicians that this situation simply cannot continue.

     With talk of NLW rising by up to 5% a year, or jumping straight up to £10 an hour, (from the current £7.83), the fees we receive need to factor this into account. For this to occur, Government needs to ensure adequate additional funding is available at local levels.

3)  Support the National Housing Federation’s #FixTheHousingCrisis Campaign

Southdown is a member of the National Housing Federation, including myself acting as a representative on their Health and Housing national group. I would ask that alongside ourselves, you support their campaign to fix the housing crisis for good through the investment of £12.8billion a year to achieve the following five housing priorities:

  • Build new social housing
  • Make sure everyone can feel safe in their home
  • Invest in places to bring the country together
  • Deliver a new deal for social housing with residents at the heart
  • Develop a fair and effective support and welfare system

Full details on the NHF’s campaign are on their website:

How Southdown can support you

Your support to help raise these points during your election campaign is greatly appreciated.

We appreciate that this is a busy time for you but if you would like to find out more about issues I have raised in this letter or have wider discussions to help develop policy ideas in relation to housing, social care and health then myself and colleagues at Southdown would be happy to assist. This could include visits to any of our services within your constituency to meet people who access our services and staff. Please contact myself in the first instance.

I wish you well in your election challenge and look forward to working with you to best represent the needs of vulnerable residents in your constituency.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Blanchard, Chief Executive 

[1] Commons Library briefing ‘Adult Social Care Funding’ October 2019, Care Quality Commission ‘State of Care’ 2018/19

[2] The Health Foundation ‘New government must act to end the shameful policy failure at the heart of adult social care’ Aug 2019, Skills for Care ‘Workforce Intelligence’ August 2019, Open Access Government ‘Brexit and the social care staffing crisis’ April 2019