Sixty Second Interview with Nigel Rogers
By Maria Ahmed
Rogers is director of SITRA
The Commission for Social Care Inspection has found that the impact of Supporting People has been “inconsistent” across councils. What, in your view, are some of the main reasons for this?
It’s about ownership- the best councils have relished the chance to work with users, carers providers and their own statutory stakeholders to really ensure this programme makes a difference. Others have got hung up on narrow issues or failed to make the wider linkages.
The CSCI’s report highlighted “insufficient attention” young people and families. It also identified some gaps in services for people with mental health issues including a lack of floating support, and found that older people received the least amount of Supporting People grant. What has been in the impact on service users on the ground?
Historically, most of supported housing worked with single people, not families. SP was always supposed to be about change – realigning legacy services with current need. In a climate of declining budgets this was always going to be difficult. So much remains to be done. But the Audit Commission report last year highlighted real progress for users in terms of improved support planning. They say the regulation, quality and accountability of existing services have demonstrably improved.
The CSCI also found that the Supporting People grant had been used to ‘subsidise’ the costs of supported housing for people with learning difficulties in most council areas, which had sometimes resulted in an “inappropriate” use of the grant to cover statutory duties. Why do you think councils have been using the grant in this way, and how widespread is this problem?
Too often, at least in the early days, social services departments thought of SP as a way to balance their over stretched budgets, rather than seeing it as complementary provision. It didn’t help that the Valuing People initiative was pushed out with so few new resources attached to it. This is slowly changing, but corporate funding agreements- whereby SP and SSD’s strategically agree to fund different services in different proportions – are still taking time to get adopted.
The CSCI said that Supporting People services needed to make a “cultural shift” from placing people in residential care to support living. How could this best be achieved?
Actually, I think this is happening- though perhaps not as fast as some would like in respect of all client groups. SP started life funding over 100,000 units of ’floating support’ and with a clear programme of disinvestment from residential care. Maybe it’s mainstream SSD spending which needs to move more in this direction, not SP.
How do you think the use of the Supporting People can be improved?
From my point of view there is one key issue absent from the report –the overriding need to properly sort out a robust and fair set of open access arrangements for users who cross authority boundaries to use services. It’s also a priority to sort out a proper framework for funding services where people require both care and support. Most of all, though, the sector needs an end to financial uncertainty and a good CSR settlement.