Supporting People faces council budget shortfalls

Local authority budgets for Supporting People – the government’s
programme of housing-related support for vulnerable groups due to
be introduced in April 2003 – are in danger of falling short,
according to local authorities and the independent social housing

The transitional housing benefit scheme introduced to help
estimate the total future pot of money for Supporting People is
leading to discrepancies in what is counted as rent and what is
counted as “general counselling and support”.

Since April last year, housing providers – including landlords
in the private and public sector – have had to separate the

There are four categories of support now covered by the scheme:
help with maintaining the security of the housing; help with the
safety of the building, such as adaptations to cope with
disability; assistance with complying with the tenancy agreement;
and other more general support services not covered elsewhere.
These costs will be used by the government to calculate the
Supporting People budget, which will become a closed budget after

The National Housing Federation, among others, is concerned that
housing providers are not declaring enough support costs in the
scheme, choosing instead to keep them in rent costs.

Some councils have said landlords are resistant to declaring all
their support costs because they believe the funds will be safer in
a housing benefit budget, in addition to the fear that councils may
withdraw the support services once the full programme comes into
operation in 2003.

According to NHF national co-ordinator for Supporting People
Nick Sweet, not enough councils have appointed permanent full-time
Supporting People teams and there has not been enough mapping of
local providers.

Hampshire Council has been praised for its use of the
transitional scheme, and has set up a landlord forum to help
understanding of the situation.

“We need to reassure landlords,” said Hampshire Council’s
commissioning manager for supported people Alan Haggar. “Firstly,
we need their co-operation in any changes to be made. Secondly, we
are not going to go competition crazy. Thirdly, we need to come to
some agreement about safeguarding funds.

“We are working with housing benefit [department officials] and
providers to manage a transfer of funding responsibility, but we
will not just withdraw funding. We will not endanger services.”

The Supporting People unit at the former Department of the
Environment, Transport and the Regions also has concerns. “We in
the DETR and the Department of Social Security are very, very
worried and concerned about people understanding the scheme … and
stripping out housing-related support costs,” said Bert Provan,
DETR Supporting People lead officer.

“I need to ensure that the right amount of support is
identified. We’ve issued guidance on identifying housing-related
support. We’re monitoring it closely by quarterly returns from
local authorities.”

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