Headlines: November 3rd, 2009

Money provided by central government for the local delivery of housing-related support and other services to vulnerable groups should not be ring fenced according to a House of Commons committee. The MPs say, however, that the services must be protected.

The Communities and Local Government Select Committee has been looking into the Supporting People Programme in the wake of widespread concern that the government’s decision to remove the ring fence might lead to a substantial loss of funding for the services. In its report today the committee says the flexibility resulting from the removal is clearly well worth having.

“Fears about the potential for loss of funding must be countered by maintaining high levels of transparency, rigorous service delivery and strong monitoring frameworks so that the Supporting People programme continues to deliver vital services to some of the most vulnerable in our society,” the committee chair, Dr Phyllis Starkey, said.

She added that central government must show how much money it provided for Supporting People within each local area-based grant and said: “Local authorities should be free to manage their own budgets, but must then be prepared to justify any decisions to redirect Supporting People funds to deliver other locally targeted services.”

The report says that the programme has achieved a great deal and delivered savings to the Exchequer of 3.4 billion pounds for a 1.6 billion a year investment that is spent well and supports the needs of the most vulnerable and socially excluded people. Any avoidable threats to the programme’s continued success, the MPs add, must be averted.