Bishop of Leicester speaks in debate on the need to provide more supported housing

On 30th March 2023, the House of Lords debated the need for more supported housing resources. The Bishop of Leicester spoke in the debate, highlighting the benefits of supported housing in reducing homelessness and referencing the work of local services in Leicester diocese:

The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for securing this debate and bringing to the Committee’s attention the excellent report by Imogen Blood and the University of York for the National Housing Federation.

I would like to use this opportunity to highlight in particular the work of one organisation in Leicester, with which I have had the privilege of working. I will highlight some of the points made in the aforementioned report and also in Homeful, a report by Professor Jo Richardson of De Montfort University in Leicester.

For several years, One Roof Leicester operated a night shelter, providing emergency accommodation for those who would otherwise be sleeping rough. Indeed, it was credited as running the first interfaith night shelter in the UK; for three months, it rotated between multiple places of worship. It then began to offer supported housing for people experiencing homelessness, and the outcomes have been so positive that it has now moved over fully to that model.

As the Housing First approach suggests, once people have a safe and secure place to call home, they are in a much better position to engage with support services. But to also help residents navigate the complexity of the various different agencies and services that they might need, each One Roof Leicester resident has a key worker who helps them access benefits, housing, employment or training, and health services. Residents are also supported by local volunteers, who offer befriending and practical help. This means that residents feel they have a community where they belong, as a well as a physical home.

All of this makes it possible for residents to get back on their feet and live independently. Between 2020 and 2022, 32 of One Roof’s residents successfully moved into their own accommodation, and 100% of them have been able to maintain their tenancy. Those numbers would be higher if it were not for the shortage of social housing, as the National Housing Federation report highlights. Years-long waits for council-owned properties and the impossibly high cost of privately rented accommodation mean that residents stay with One Roof longer than they need. That, in turn, means that people whose lives could be changed by that one-to-one support have been turned away. Just last Monday, three people looking for a space with One Roof were turned away; it is clear that the need is great.

We are doing what we can in my diocese. I have the honour of chairing the city’s homelessness charter, which brings together agencies, charities and businesses with an interest in ending homelessness so that they can work together more effectively. A couple of our churches in Leicester are also making plans to build or convert accommodation for people who would otherwise be homeless. But there are limits to what the charity, voluntary and faith sector can do without government support.

The Government are in a position to increase the social housing stock with capital investment and by ensuring that new developments dedicate at least 10% of the stock to affordable housing. By creating a ready supply of housing for people to move into from supported accommodation, that sector can achieve transformational outcomes for more and more people. The Government can also make joined-up working par for the course at local level through strategic use of their funding. The disadvantages and challenges that our most vulnerable citizens face rarely sit neatly within disciplinary silos, so it is vital that housing, justice, health and social care work together effectively, ideally following a Housing First approach.

It is fiscally sensible to invest more into social housing and supported accommodation. The Everybody In campaign of 2020 showed the strides that we can take against homelessness when there is the will and resource. Knowing that we can do better for our most vulnerable citizens, it is morally imperative that we do so.


Extracts from the speeches that followed:

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab): It is fair to say that there are some fantastic examples of just what can be achieved all over the country, and it is to the enormous credit of local government that it has delivered some of these innovations in spite of the truly unprecedented cuts in local government funding and unfunded inflation experienced in recent years. The problem now is that we see a patchwork approach to this instead of what we want to see, which is excellence delivered everywhere.

I will give a couple of examples from Stevenage, which I know best, but there are great examples all over the country, including the one that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester kindly outlined about One Roof Leicester. We are developing new residential accommodation for older people, based on their ambitions and aspirations articulated during our consultation process. Sheltered housing will be located alongside extra care facilities so that people do not lose their community connections, neighbours, shops, faith groups and so on when they need more support. There will be on-site provision of health, podiatry, chiropody, hairdressing and so on—all available for them.

Our “No More” service started as a support project to help those with complex needs sustain tenancies, providing one-to-one support from a caseworker. Following the pandemic, it extended to incorporate a new range of housing under our housing first project. Using a combination of modern-method-of-construction buildings, new builds and regenerated homes, we are making sure that people have a roof over their heads and are supported by a package we have negotiated with the adult care team at the county council.


I will conclude—I could go on about this all day but will try not to. We know that there is an unmet need for supported housing, alongside all the other community aspects that can improve physical health and well-being. Sadly, the important role of all of these in public mental health is under great pressure following years of austerity cuts, as outlined by many noble Lords. We believe that this is short-sighted and only puts far more cost pressure on acute services. Let us pick up the innovation already under way in local government so that everyone who needs it has the supported housing provision best suited to their needs, leading to, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester mentioned, the transformational outcomes that we all want to see.

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