Ministers ponder ways to bolster Supporting People with legislation

Supporting People is set to be put on a statutory footing, according to the civil servant heading the £1.7bn programme.

Jane Everton told the Chartered Institute of Housing annual conference last week that the government was exploring options for putting it on a more secure basis.

This could involve giving some groups a right to housing support or giving local authorities a duty to make it available.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesperson later said ministers had asked officials to explore whether putting housing-related support on a statutory basis was the best way forward and to evaluate the options.

Giving the programme statutory protection would allay fears of service providers over the removal of the ring-fence, proposed in last year’s consultation paper.

Everton confirmed that providers, in their responses to the consultation, had sought continued protection for the programme, at least for now, using the ring-fence.

She also reported opposition to the controversial Supporting People redistribution formula.

She said the future of the programme would involve three-year funding settlements, a focus on outcomes, and an emphasis on addressing long-term trends such as an ageing population and the increasing number of homeowners.

Meanwhile, an independent assessment of the role of social housing, led by Professor John Hills, of the London School of Economics, was announced at the conference by communities and local government secretary Ruth Kelly.

The assessment, which will report in the autumn, will examine whether social housing is flexible enough and how it can help to create mixed communities.

Benefits minister James Plaskitt told the conference that the Department for Work and Pensions was focusing on the issue of housing benefit “tapers” to ensure there were adequate incentives for people to take up employment.

Campaigners believe the steepness of tapers – which define how much people can earn before losing benefit – can leave claimants out of pocket if they take jobs.

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