19 Mar 2011

'Supporting People' cuts make no sense

A couple of weeks I signed a letter along with many other councillors across the country to express anger at cuts to Supporting People - in Gloucestershire it could be as high as 43% with some Councils across the country suggesting 50% cuts. See my earlier blog here.

An independent evaluation carried out in 2009 for the Government estimated that the national annual investment of £1.6 billion in housing-related support generated net savings of £3.4 billion by avoiding more costly acute services. This means real cost savings and economic benefits to every local area.

It is clear that cuts to these services will very likely create disproportionately negative impacts on vulnerable people - and result in greater costs to local authorities, health, police and other statutory services.

As the independent evaluation noted: “the present economic downturn is likely to intensify the demand for services paid for by the grant, particularly where such services deal with the needs of the socially excluded.” 

We are now facing cuts to many services and benefits which risks increasing demand on services yet further - for example the cuts to housing benefit and changes to the homelessness duty are forecast to create instability which will increase local demand for housing related support.

The evidence is that cutting SP now will cost more over time as extra pressure is put on other local services. It makes no sense.

Text of the letter:

Dear Sir

Supporting People services provide vital housing related support to over a million of the most vulnerable in society – including older people, victims of domestic violence, and people experiencing or at risk of homelessness – to help them live more independently in their own homes.

Despite the Government emphasising the importance of protecting key frontline services at the time of the spending review, this funding has suffered severe cuts as councils face substantial pressure to reduce costs. Some local authorities have already announced that their Supporting People budgets will be slashed by up to 50%, cutting a crucial thread of support for many who do not have access to other sources of help.

Amongst the services being put under threat are outreach schemes for young homeless people, women’s refuges, money and debt advice, and home-based support for pensioners.

What’s more, taking such measures does not make financial sense. Without early identification and support, vulnerable individuals will reach crisis point as their needs escalate and become more severe, leading to greater demand on acute health services, the criminal justice system and carers. In December 2010, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles himself told the CLG select committee that: ‘Most sensible local authorities will come to the conclusion that £1 spent on Supporting People will probably save them £5 or £6 further down the line’.

We understand the difficult spending situation local councils are presently facing. We are extremely concerned, however, about the effects of losing these services, which would be a body blow for many of society’s most vulnerable.

We therefore join with the National Housing Federation to make a plea to fellow councillors to consider the impact that Supporting People cuts would have in their own wards, and to ask local councils to protect these vital services.

Signed by XXX (number of) local councillors

More information about Supporting People and the current funding situation is available in the fact sheet we have published jointly with 13 other organisations, which can be read online at http://bit.ly/fQYl13.

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