Weaknesses in council commissioning may lead to cuts to preventive supported living services and those targeted at hard-to-reach groups when Supporting People’s ring-fence disappears.
That was the warning from Domini Gunn, the Audit Commission’s co-ordinator of Supporting People inspections. She told Community Care that performance by councils administering Supporting People was “gradually improving” but there were some authorities “who are not performing at all well”.
The £1.7bn ring-fenced programme is due to be absorbed into the local area agreement grant – a single pot consisting of several current funding streams – for councils by 2009, prompting fears that schemes for unpopular groups, such as refugees and offenders, may be cut.
Gunn said that while some councils had developed strategic commissioning arrangements that would enable them to meet a broad range of needs when the ring-fence is removed, they were in a minority. She questioned whether there would be sufficient time for others to improve before 2009.
She asked: “With cash-limited budgets, how do you protect preventive services and services for the most vulnerable groups who won’t engage with adult social care or health? Their only recourse to services is Supporting People.”
She said some authorities were already “seriously considering” cutting community alarm services even though they provided a “lifeline” for some older people and women fleeing domestic violence.