MPs urge ring-fencing of Supporting People grants to guarantee services

    Clear criteria for spending Supporting People grants should be
    drawn up urgently, MPs have demanded.

    And funding for “less popular” vulnerable groups should be
    ring-fenced to guarantee services.

    The recommendations are spelled out in the latest report of the
    Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) select committee.

    The MPs say ring-fencing would protect service users, including
    victims of domestic violence, rough sleepers, ex-offenders and drug
    and alcohol misusers, 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 services generally
    is chronic. If it is to be ring-fenced under Supporting People, we
    can provide much better provisions.”

    It also has the backing of homelessness charity St Mungo’s. Head of
    quality, performance and review Mick Carroll said: “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 describes home improvement agencies, which provide
    financial and practical help in carrying out repairs and
    adaptations in service users’ homes, as “good value”. It suggests
    that the ODPM ensures national coverage of the agencies by 2006 and
    that funding for these is also ring-fenced if necessary.

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

    However, it warns that applying cuts blindly to each council could
    “damage services for vulnerable people in an unacceptable
    way”.

    It says the ODPM should cut grants for only those councils that the
    Audit Commission has identified as having “excessively high
    costs”.

    A stronger link between social housing capital and revenue
    programmes is also needed to ensure projects requiring funding from
    both pots are not jeopardised.

    l Supporting Vulnerable and Older People from
    www.publications.parlia ment.uk/pa/cm/cmodpm.htm

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