Shrinking Supporting People pot will not fund mental health services

    Services for people with high personal care needs must be met
    through local authorities’ social services budgets not Supporting
    People funding, the government has warned.

    Announcing a real terms 7 per cent cut to the Supporting People
    budget over the next three years, officials from the Office of the
    Deputy Prime Minister said services for people with mental health
    problems or more severe learning difficulties were not appropriate
    for Supporting People funding.

    Councils will be expected to share £1.72bn in 2005-6, followed
    by £1.7bn in both 2006-7 and 2007-8. The 2004-5 budget
    remained at the £1.8bn level reached in 2003-4, although
    councils are expected to make savings of 2.5 per cent.

    How the money will be distributed for at least 2005-6 will be
    announced later this year, but councils deemed to be spending far
    more than others could have their individual budgets slashed by as
    much as 7.5 per cent in the first year alone.

    The ODPM has given local authorities until April 2005 to remove
    “inappropriate” groups to ensure eligibility for a slice of the
    £5bn funding over the next three years. Spending plans must
    include services for “less popular groups” such as ex-offenders and
    rough sleepers, including cross-boundary agreements to ensure the
    needs of the most vulnerable are met.

    Although welcoming the three-year funding announcement, Supporting
    People lead for the Association of Directors of Social Services
    John Nawrockyi pointed out that the government originally
    encouraged councils to include mental health and learning
    difficulty services in the Supporting People programme.

    “Without compensatory funding for social service departments it
    would be hard to remove the services from the Supporting People
    funding,” he said. “Social services need to sit down with the ODPM
    to ensure a realistic timescale.”

    Local Government Association housing policy manager David Thompson
    said it was unfair to pass the costs back to social services
    departments that would not have the resources to find new funding.
    He suggested the Department of Health increase its contribution to
    the Supporting People pot instead.

    A spokesperson for social care charity Turning Point added: “The
    cuts could unravel gains in treatment and prevent people from
    becoming independent and fully rebuilding their lives.”

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