Headlines: September 1st, 2004

Local councils have been told it is up to them to ensure more than five billion pounds being made available over the next three years to enable more vulnerable people to lead independent lives is used to best advantage. The funding settlement – part of this year’s Spending Review will provide 1.72 billion in the year 2005 to 6 followed by similar amounts in the two succeeding years under the Supporting People programme.The government is claiming the three-year settlement shows its commitment to improving the quality of life for those at risk. The money will provide housing-related support including home visits, alarm systems and advice on accessing benefits to which they are entitled. At the same time local government is to be encouraged to improve value for money in providing services in this area and to share best practice after auditors found scope for savings.

Since it was introduced in April last year the Supporting People scheme has grown to provide support to more than a million vulnerable people, including the elderly, people with learning difficulties and women fleeing from domestic violence. It is designed to be a preventative programme, bringing together housing related support services from across Government. These include sheltered housing wardens, hostels supporting drug users and women’s refuges.

A series of Audit Commission inspections, carried out on behalf of the Government, reported that there was considerable scope for local authorities to make savings in the Supporting People scheme in order to improve value for money and to meet demand that would otherwise go unanswered. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will now work with councils and other providers to help them improve procurement, contract management, value for money and the sharing of good practice. This will be the first time local authorities have had a three-year budget with which to plan services for vulnerable people.

Supporting People Minister, Jeff Rooker, said, “It is important that this funding is now used in a way that best meets the needs of service users and provides value for money for the public purse. It is now down to local authorities and providers to make sure this happens.”