Woolas backtracks on funding plans

Supporting People funding will be delivered through local area agreements (LAAs) by April 2009, the local government minister told a conference this week.

Phil Woolas’s statement appears to contradict a speech he made in July, when he pledged to maintain the programme’s ring-fenced status.

LAAs give councils flexibility over how they spend their money as long as they meet agreed targets. But campaigners have raised fears that removing the Supporting People  ring fence would lead to less popular groups losing out.

Trailing the launch of the government’s Supporting People strategy, expected early next year, Woolas also promised an expansion of individual budgets that include Supporting People funding.

Supporting People minimum standards are also under consideration, giving local authorities guidance over what they should deliver and allowing people to take action if they do not receive it.

Chartered Institute of Housing policy officer Sarah Davis said removing the ring fence could be a problem in areas where there was not a good understanding of the benefits of supported housing. But she suggested introducing a statutory supported housing  duty might be a way to stop funds being diverted to other areas.

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