The axe has finally fallen and at last councils know how much – or
how little – cash they are to receive under the Supporting People
programme. And, after rumours that the £1.8bn budget could be
slashed by as much as 15 per cent, it comes as almost a relief that
the cut is more like half that figure. No doubt that relief is just
what the government wanted people to feel when it prompted dire
warnings over the summer by asking authorities to come up with
projections of the effect of a 15 per cent reduction.
Of course a cut of £80m cannot just be shrugged off. But
councils can hardly say they didn’t see it coming and they should
have made contingency plans. The fact is Supporting People has been
something of a pot of gold for local authorities that was just too
good to last for ever.
Perhaps now that the bubble has burst service providers will be
forced to take a long, hard look at what they are doing and how
they finance it. At least for the first time local authorities have
a three-year budget enabling them to plan ahead. Supporting People
was always a support option driven by finance rather than by what
people needed. Highly vulnerable groups need to be protected and
should be encouraged to live independently. What needs to be made
clear is the best way to pay for it.