Services under threat as impact of Supporting People cuts hits home

Charities and councils are warning that they cannot fund the
shortfall caused by the cuts in the Supporting People budget,
writes Shirley Kumar.

Mental health charity Rethink said the reduction, announced last
week, threatened to undermine services and could lead to tenancy
breakdowns or the readmission to hospital of vulnerable

Clinical services director Eddie Greenwood said: “The cuts
will also make it harder to recruit staff which will lead to
reduced service and an extra burden on families and carers.”

His views were backed by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health,
which warned the cuts in housing-related support threatened to dent
the government’s efforts to promote independence among people
with mental health problems.

In a briefing paper published this week, the association said
funding cuts would affect those who had “benefited the most
and whose needs are most complex”.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister announced last week that
the Supporting People budget would be cut from £1.8bn last
year to £1.72bn in 2005-6, followed by £1.7bn in both
2006-7 and 2007-8 (news, page 6, 2 September). Although the budget
for this year remained at £1.8bn, councils are expected to
make 2.5 per cent efficiency savings.

The ODPM denied that the three-year funding announcement would lead
to a loss in services.
A spokesperson said local authorities should make
“efficiencies” while safeguarding services for
vulnerable people.

But Richard Pacey, chief executive of the Wilf Ward Family Trust, a
Yorkshire-based charity for disabled people and people with
learning difficulties, described the government’s actions in
a letter to the prime minister last week as “beyond any

In England, councils are reported to be capping services at
£350-£400 a person a week. Services most likely to be
affected are those for people with learning difficulties or mental
health problems.

In February, the independent review into Supporting People
commissioned by the ODPM suggested that there might be a case for
“separating out the current funding for people with learning
disabilities and mental health problems for allocation to pooled
budget arrangements across health and social services”.

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