Cutbacks under way as councils prepare for slashing of grants

Supporting People housing projects for vulnerable adults could face cuts of up to 20% this year in response to huge reductions in government grants

Supporting People housing projects for vulnerable adults could face cuts of up to 20% this year in response to huge reductions in government grants.

The concerns were raised after East Sussex Council’s Supporting People team sent an email to providers, warning that the government’s plan to slash grants to English councils by £1.2bn in 2010-11 would mean big cuts.

If East Sussex’s estimate of cuts is correct and repeated nationally, £300m will be removed from Supporting People, which funds supported housing services for groups including people with mental health problems or learning disabilities, older people, the homeless and victims of domestic violence.

The email said: “Given the government’s stated intention to protect grants to schools, Sure Start etc, the impact locally is estimated to mean cuts in the order of 20% to the Supporting People programme within this financial year.

“Due to the urgency of this announcement, we are working to establish how this cut can be achieved within the current Supporting People programme this year.”

Supporting People, which had been allocated £1.64bn nationally this year, is vulnerable to cuts as it is no longer ring-fenced.

Nicola Youern, chief executive of the You charity, which provides housing support services in south England, said she expected other councils to follow suit, though she had seen no other examples so far.

The National Housing Federation said it was also “concerned” about direct cuts to Supporting People.

Meanwhile, Gloucestershire Council has decided to freeze spending on grant-funded children’s services in anticipation of government cuts.

Head of children’s services Jo Davidson wrote to colleagues in an email: “To limit the impact of any reductions, it has been agreed that it is wise that all expenditure on grant-related activities should be stopped wherever possible until the position becomes clear.”

A council spokesman told Community Care: “We are taking prudent action to pause spending where possible so that we are able to respond quickly when more details are available.”

The news comes with the government expected to announce this week where the axe will fall in on local government grants this year.

Local government expert Tony Travers, director of the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics, said that big-spending areas like children’s services and adult services “were likely to bear a disproportionate share” of cuts to council spending over coming years.

However, he added areas like leisure services, arts and environmental services could feel the pain this year.

Travers also warned that the programme of cuts and pay restraint could lead to strike action across the public sector.

Richard Harbour, chair of the social care panel at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, said it would be difficult to cut social care funding in the short run because it would mean decommissioning services tied up in block contracts.

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