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Supporting the Care, Support and Social Housing sectors as a local Councillor

Posted on 31 May 2023

Southdown’s Chief Executive, Neil Blanchard, publishes an open letter he sent to recently elected councillors in Brighton and Hove following the local elections this month:

Congratulations on your recent election to Brighton and Hove City Council (BHCC).

From my regular discussions with previous Councillors, I appreciate the level of responsibility and commitment that the role entails, and it is always so great that people are willing to take on the challenge on behalf of our community. Now you have been elected, I wanted to make contact to provide an update of the issues and concerns that are of most importance to Southdown, as well as advocate on behalf of the wider Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector.

About Southdown

Southdown was established in Brighton and Hove in 1972 to meet the needs of residents facing additional disadvantages and inequalities to lead their lives to the full. We have grown to now be one the largest not-for-profit (VCSE) providers of residential care, supported housing and community support across Sussex to over 10,800 people each year.

In Brighton and Hove, Southdown provides services to over 2,100 residents per annum through a range of services:

• Function as the Lead Provider of UOK Brighton & Hove, a network of 17 local VCSE organisations working together (through sub-contracting arrangements with Southdown) to deliver Community Mental Health services across the City. Southdown directly delivers; Wellbeing Hubs, a Recovery College, supported employment, GP-based Mental Health Support Coordinators, and an out-of-hours Crisis Prevention service

• Social Landlord, all homes being designated as supported housing, with individuals receiving additional personalised support to successfully maintain their tenancies

• Transition and Resettlement service, supporting people to successfully settle into independent accommodation (local authority and private rented sector housing)

• A Discharge to Assess service, providing short-term tailored support and accommodation to people ready to leave mental health inpatient settings, reducing delayed discharges

• Residential care and support for people with a learning disability and complex additional physical and behavioural needs.

Issues where we would seek your support as a Councillor

Through regular engagement with BHCC Councillors, I can both understand Council priorities, as well as provide insight and evidence from a VCSE provider perspective. Current themes that I would welcome the opportunity to discuss with you going forward include:

‘Fair funding for fair pay’

For the past three years, I have led a lobbying campaign on behalf of Southdown and the wider care sector, to ensure that we receive adequate funding to cover costs enabling us to alleviate in-work poverty for staff (aligned to BHCC’s commitment to the Real Living Wage). This campaign is against the backdrop of our own BHCC funded learning disability care services operating in a deficit position for the past five years.

Each year, I have been required to appeal fee increases initially proposed as well as negotiate individual fee reviews for placements. 2023/24 will be no exception. Although BHCC did acknowledge care sector workforce and funding pressures when considering fee uplifts for 2023/24, the 5% agreed is significantly below actual cost inflation and that of neighbouring authorities (East and West Sussex both awarding 10%). Despite the Council identifying a need to expand provision of specialist supported living services, if they fail to offer competitive funding, then the market is unlikely to be able to respond or sustain current services.

Protection/expansion of supported housing

Brighton and Hove have a vibrant but limited supply of supported housing (where tenants receive additional specialist support to live independently). Although providers such as Southdown have an ambition (and capital funding) to develop more, the lack of a coherent long-term strategy for linked support funding acts as a barrier to expansion and places current supply at risk. Along with other local supported housing leaders (BHT and Downslink YMCA), we wish to work collaboratively with BHCC to ensure best use is made of current properties and we can have confidence to invest in new homes.

Working together to resolve complex issues

As local strategic partner, having worked myself in Brighton and Hove for Southdown for over 2 decades, I am committed to work with stakeholders to find solutions to the current challenges we all face. If you would like to discuss any specific issues or discuss points of interest, please do make contact.

Yours sincerely

Neil Blanchard
Chief Executive