CHARITIES AID FOUNDATION CONFERENCE NEWS: Social housing 'fails client group'

The umbrella body for the independent social housing sector has dismissed as "manifest nonsense" the director of Shelter's comments that housing associations neglect the very people they were set up to serve.

In a speech at last week's CAF conference in London, Adam Sampson said housing associations had lost their sense of mission as a result of years of providing housing on behalf of the Government.

He warned of the dangers of voluntary organisations becoming long-term public service partners of the state.

"In 20 years, they have moved increasingly away from the day-to-day clients and communities that gave them their birth," he said. "They have become multi-billion pound businesses and some housing associations no longer look to house the people they were set up to help."

Instead they were choosing to embrace the attitude of money markets and to house those people who paid their rent on time and boosted the organisation's profits, Sampson said.

At the same time, conditions attached to funding meant that charities were often forced to adapt their approach. In the case of housing, the government was "reconceptualising homelessness as a public-order issue", forcing charities to take on an increasingly "policing and coercive role".

Told of Sampson's remarks after the conference, Jim Coulter, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said they were "manifest nonsense, based on no evidence whatsoever". He added: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, preach."

The Federation represents around 1,400 non-profit housing organisations, which manage a combined total of 1.8 million homes.

Sampson's speech dealt with the controversial issue of voluntary sector provision of state services, as covered in Acevo's recent publication: Replacing the State? The Case for Third Sector Public Service Delivery.

He said that more housing is now delivered through social housing groups than through councils, and warned that charities must not be "welfare on the cheap as a replacement for Government public services."

Another example he cited was asylum charities picking up the slack for refugees after the government removed welfare support.

He said voluntary organisations had to consider the principles that should guide them in how to take money from the Government. "Money these days doesn't often come without strings attached. It's about how we approach the accountability that goes with that money."

Sampson concluded: "We're not here to pick up the pieces when the Government marks the deserving from the undeserving poor."

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