400,000 at risk as councils slash Supporting People

About 400,000 vulnerable people could lose vital support under projected cuts by councils to their Supporting People programmes, the National Housing Federation warned.

About 400,000 vulnerable people could lose vital support under projected cuts by councils to their Supporting People programmes, the National Housing Federation warned.

The umbrella group said this would be the consequence of local authorities making swingeing cuts of up to 40% from 2011-15 in the programme and would lead to a rise in homelessness, crime and disorder, causing other costs to rise.

“By risking an increase in homelessness and withdrawing vital home-based support for vulnerable people it is likely that demands on other local services will significantly increase,” said Catherine Brabner, south west regional manager for the NHF.

“There is no doubt investment in preventive support through housing associations leads to better outcomes for service users and their families, as well as savings to health and social services budgets.”

The programme, which funds housing support services for about one million people at any one time, is no longer ring-fenced and is being used by some authorities to help fund statutory social care responsibilities.

Last night Somerset approved a £3m cut in its Supporting People programme from April 2011, representing an 18% reduction on its £16.5m budget allocation for 2010-11.

It is also proposing to tighten its eligibility threshold from moderate to substantial and has warned of further pain to come despite having made £43.5m cuts in total.

“I stress that it isn’t over yet,” said said council leader Ken Maddock. “We still have a long way to go and further hard decisions will have to be taken.”

Big cuts have already been made at the Isle of Wight. And Cornwall is due to make a decision on a proposed 40% cut over three years in its “overall supporting people spending” on 30 November.

Bournemouth, Swindon, North Somerset and Surrey are also proposing reductions of 20% to 40%.

Others are waiting for the final settlement before coming up with firm proposals, though they are expected to follow suit as a result of the 26% cut in council funding.

This is despite evidence that the programme, costing £1.64bn this year, generates annual savings of £3.4bn for the public purse by intervening early to prevent people needing more acute services.

It also comes despite overt ministerial backing for the programme during the comprehensive spending review.

Then the chancellor George Osborne announced that Supporting People would receive £6bn over the next four years, which amounts to a slight reduction on current annual funding of £1.6bn a year.

Responding to news of the cuts, care services minister Paul Burstow said the coalition had prioritised protection of vulnerable people.

“Local government ought to take note of that,” he said.

Cornwall Council said it needed to save up to £110m from its budget over the next four years but was committed to reducing the impact on frontline services and believed that 90% of the required £110m savings had been found through restructuring and efficiency savings. However there is still a £10m shortfall to come from frontline services.

In a statement it said: “As part of its commitment to protecting services for vulnerable people, the emergency budget proposes freezing the funding for adult care and support at its current level. 

“Councillors are also recommending that any additional funding received by the council should be ring fenced for adult care and support.  Both these recommendations will be considered by councillors at the meeting on 30 November.

“Although we are anticipating a further reduction in the Supporting People grant we are still waiting for further guidance from the Government about the level of funding we will receive.”

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