12 February 2021

The need for safe and secure housing, with the appropriate support and care, has never been greater for people with a learning disability or autism, many of whom have continued to shield in their homes throughout the coronavirus pandemic. For many people with a learning disability or autism the choice of housing options remains limited. Too many people are still living in unsuitable homes or are continuing to live with family carers far longer than their desire for independence demands.

At Golden Lane Housing, we’ve been working for over 20 years to provide opportunities for independent living and have strategically worked with over 120 commissioning authorities over that time to support thousands of people into supported housing in their communities. Regrettably, a clear national strategy for people with a learning disability and autism has failed to materialise over the last decade. A few years ago, it became increasingly clear to me that housing associations needed to work far closer together to support any systemic change for an integrated housing planning and delivery approach.

The Learning Disability and Autism Housing Network was established in 2019 when a number of housing associations came together to respond to the real opportunities and potential threats to the sector. The backdrop at the time was numerous negative stories of non-compliant new housing associations in the housing press around the new models of long lease provision. There were real opportunities to share the positive impact of compliant providers, and share the evidence that sustainable, quality accommodation can provide real cost savings to government. There was also need for a greater level of capital funding from government to support the gap the new providers were meeting.

Our coalition quickly grew to 12 housing providers who all wanted to support the provision, development and promotion of quality homes and housing services for people with a learning disability and autism. Membership now includes specialist learning disability and autism providers, regional housing associations from across England and crucially, some of the largest housing associations in the UK such as Places for People and Home Group.

We passionately believe that now, more than ever, there is a key role for housing associations in meeting the increasing demand for supported housing in this sector. The network is committed to raising awareness of housing need and evidencing the positive impact and value for money of quality housing and housing services. We also want to influence national policy change by creating a coherent collective voice for housing people with a learning disability and autism.

This spring, at the National Housing Federation’s National Housing Summit, the Learning Disability and Autism Housing Network will officially launch our Charter, which sets out our four actions for change:

  • Government to create the conditions for growth of supply for people with a learning disability and autism.
  • Government to create a more comprehensive and integrated national and local planning and policy framework for supported housing for people with a learning disability and autism.
  • Amendments to the Rent Standard that supports the commissioning and development of new supported housing for people with high support needs.
  • A long-term sustainable, consistent housing benefit regime for supported housing.

The response to the coronavirus crisis has shown the real benefits of partnership working across the housing association sector and with government. We believe the Learning Disability and Autism Housing Network offers an important role to respond to the opportunities and challenges across the sector.

John will be speaking at the National Housing Summit on 22-25 March 2021. Find out more about booking your place.

John Verge

John Verge is Chief Executive of Golden Lane Housing.

John is Chief Executive of Golden Lane Housing, and has worked for the UK learning disability housing association set up by Mencap for 20 years. During his time at Golden Lane Housing, the organisation has lead on innovative solutions for thousands of people with a learning disability and autism across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and won a variety of national awards for their social impact bonds and specialist services. John has a Masters in Housing Studies, MBA from Warwick Business School and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing and Royal Society of Arts.

Why we must work together to provide quality housing and support for people with a learning disability and autism