Fall in clients is cue for cutback fears

    The number of new clients using Supporting People services has
    fallen 10 per cent in the past year, prompting concerns that
    funding cuts are starting to bite.

    Figures from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister show that
    84,050 new clients entered Supporting People services in the six
    months from April to September 2004. There were 209,845 new clients
    recorded in the year April 2003 to March 2004.

    Funding cuts equivalent to 7 per cent over three years in
    England are set to start in April and David Rogers, chair of the
    Local Government Association’s community well-being board, said
    they might already be influencing the numbers of new clients.

    He suggested councils could have responded by toughening up
    their inspection criteria for housing projects in an attempt to
    make the savings, adding that he had been contacted by several
    councils that had terminated contracts with providers because of a
    resource shortage.

    A Gloucestershire Council spokesperson said it had issued 104
    notices to providers, of which 100 were precautionary. “This was to
    protect our position and try to negotiate contracts to bring our
    budget back into balance following the cuts,” he said.

    A provider who asked not to be named warned that the move would
    cause problems, but added: “What else can councils do? They’ve been
    forced by the government to reduce their budget.”

    The ODPM has denied it is concerned about the effects of
    Supporting People cuts despite the appearance on its website last
    week of guidance urging councils not to engage in “blanket cuts to
    services”.

    The note reminds authorities that decisions about savings should
    be made on a case by case basis. An ODPM spokeswoman insisted the
    note was just a “gentle reminder”.

     

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