Westminster commits its own money to meet Supporting People cuts

    Westminster Council has pledged to maintain service provision
    for street drug addicts, despite anticipated cuts in its Supporting
    People budget, writes Shirley
    Kumar
    .

    Westminster and Camden Councils’ new “Killing with
    Kindness” campaign, which urges people not to give money to
    beggars, was launched just weeks before allocations from the
    Supporting People pot for 2005/6 were due to be confirmed by the
    Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Although some authorities fear
    there will be cuts in funding, Westminster said it had £40
    million in reserve to make up for any shortfall.

    A majority of drug treatment services catering for the beggars, who
    include rough sleepers and those residing in homeless hostels, are
    funded under the Supporting People budget.

    Westminster research showed that around 85 per cent of up to 400
    beggars have a hard drug habit. It also found many were coming in
    to beg from other London boroughs.

    The campaign wants to inform the public about how else they can
    help the homeless and argues that giving to beggars was cruel
    because it gave them no incentives to access treatment
    programmes.

    “We are concerned with cuts to the Supporting People budget
    but we will find the money to maintain services for those with a
    connection to Westminster because it is a priority,”
    confirmed deputy leader Kit Malthouse. He said the council already
    had £40m in reserves.

    However, a cut in budget could mean a reduction in expensive
    services such as specialist care and 24-hour supervision hostels,
    warn charities.

    Turning Point spokesperson said: “Councils need to make sure
    they are backing any enforcement by funding service
    provision.”

    Thames Reach Bondway (TRB) out reach services manager Petra Salva
    said service provision was patchy across London. “When
    councils take a hard line the services need to be in place. That is
    not the case across all boroughs.” TRB was commissioned to
    undertake street outreach work for Westminster council.

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