ODPM needs to define Supporting People spending

    The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister should establish as a
    “matter of urgency” clear criteria as to what
    Supporting People grants should be spent on, MPs have demanded,
    writes Shirley Kumar.

    If necessary, funding for “less popular” vulnerable
    groups should be ring-fenced as part of this process, the ODPM
    select committee recommends.

    In its latest report, the committee says such a move would protect
    service users such as victims of domestic violence, rough sleepers,
    ex-offenders, and people who misuse drug and alcohol who may not be
    a priority for councils facing cuts in next year’s
    grants.

    Welcoming the proposal, Alcohol Concern interim chief executive
    Richard Phillips said: “Under funding of alcohol generally is
    chronic. If it is to be ring-fenced under Supporting People, we can
    provide much better provisions.”

    Head of quality, performance and review at homelessness charity St
    Mungo’s, Mick Carroll, added: “We are strongly in
    favour of ring-fencing for less popular groups and urge that the
    homeless and other vulnerable people that we work with are included
    in this group.”

    The report also describes Home Improvement Agencies, which provide
    financial and practical assistance in carrying out repairs and
    adaptations in service-users’ homes, as “good value for
    money”.

    It suggests that the ODPM ensure nationwide coverage of agencies by
    2006 and that the funding for these is also ring-fenced if
    necessary.

    Although heavily criticising the ODPM for the way the Supporting
    People programme was brought into operation, the report welcomes
    the tighter regime of financial control introduced by the
    department in response to the Robson Rhodes review published in
    February 2004.

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