Headlines: November 27th, 2008

Councils are to have more freedom in the way they spend money allocated to them under the Supporting People Programme Grant. The 1.66 billion pounds, the biggest single grant in the financial settlement for local government, will no longer be ring fenced.

Since it was introduced in 2003 the programme has supported around a million vulnerable people a year to lead independent lives in their own homes or safely within supported accommodation but the money has had to be spent according to specific rules. Next year, for the first time, the payments will be allocated to councils as a non-ring fenced named grant. It will be paid separately from, but with the same financial flexibility as, Area Based Grants.

The Communities Minister, Baroness Andrews, said the change would give councils the opportunity to develop new and innovative ways to support vulnerable people in different situations. The changes are part of a Government commitment to ensure that 5 billion pounds of funding will have been removed from ring fencing by 2011. Baroness Andrews added, “Based on successful pathfinder pilots, we have now offered councils new freedom of funding. This along with the first-ever three-year financial settlement, gives councils the flexibility and security they need to manage their budgets effectively and the ability to find new innovative ways of working to deliver much-valued local services efficiently and effectively.”

She said new measures will be developed to support services during the period of change, including a financial modeling tool to provide local evidence on the financial benefits of investment in housing support. It will be published next year. Discussions will also continue with practitioners and commissioners of Supporting People services to develop the transition package as they deliver housing related support with increased flexibility.