Supporting People cuts ‘put people at risk and shunt costs’

Supporting People cuts will put vulnerable people at risk and shunt costs on to other parts of the care and support system, councils have warned.

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Supporting People cuts will put vulnerable people at risk and shunt costs on to other parts of the care and support system, councils have warned.

Cuts were being made to housing-related support despite councils’ strong belief in its effectiveness, found the survey of councillors and housing officers in 139 English authorities by the Local Government Information Unit and housing provider Circle Housing.

Supporting People funds services such as homeless hostels, domestic violence refuges, supported housing for disabled people and sheltered housing for older people, but has been hit by significant cuts this year.

Though the government made a notional cut of 12% in Supporting People from 2011-15, the funding stream is not ring-fenced and councils are no longer required to collect outcomes data for users, leaving services open to far higher levels of reduction.

The survey found:

● 76% of respondents had made cuts to thir Supporting People budget and 22% had cut budgets by more than a quarter this year.

● 43.5% said the budget cuts had resulted in a reduced level of service for users.

● 88% felt reducing the availability of housing-related support would put vulnerable people at risk.

● 91% said reducing the availability of housing-related support would “create more costs elsewhere in the system”.

The latter finding reflects research showing the cost-effectiveness of housing-related support in preventing service users’ situations from deteriorating. A 2008 Capgemini report found that the programme delivered £2.77bn of benefits per annum against an investment of £1.55bn. The LGIU and Circle Housing report also quoted a study in the Isle of Wight suggesting that cuts to housing-related support had led to increases in antisocial behaviour, homelessness and failed tenancies.

The report called for the government to roll out so-called community budgets so that councils could pool budgets with other public sector agencies, such as health and police, to encourage investment in services that benefited all partners.

“Ultimately the value of these preventive support services cannot be fully understood until a more holistic approach to commissioning is undertaken, allowing savings generated in one public service to be realised in another,” it said. “Community budgets may hold the key to resolving this dilemma.”

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