Programme reform could hit homeless

Proposals in the government’s Supporting People consultation paper to deliver the programme through local area agreements (LAA) could set the homelessness sector back by up to 15 years, a conference has heard.

John O’Sullivan, chief executive of Suffolk charity St John’s Housing Trust, told delegates he had “grave concerns” about removing the Supporting People ring fence and adopting the LAA approach, in which councils are given funding in return for agreed outcomes.

If the funding was held in one big pot there was a danger it could be diverted to other spending areas, he told the conference of umbrella organisation Homeless Link. He added that homelessness agencies could return to a greater dependence on charitable donations.

Nigel Rogers, director of supported housing umbrella group Sitra, said he was undecided about LAAs, adding they were untested and he did not believe setting grant conditions had worked well in the past.

He said there were increasing moves towards “local services for local people” and that the strategy must not allow councils to introduce rules saying that local services can only be provided to local people.

Calderdale Council housing access manager Heidi Wilson said the programme needed a period of “bedding down” and that Supporting People teams and providers had already had to cope with a great deal of change.

Earlier, Supporting People national programme manager Jane Everton told the conference that the consultation was not about fundamental change but about taking the programme forward based on what had been learned so far.

“This is your chance to say what change there should be and how far we should and shouldn’t go,” she said.

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