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Supporting People (SP) is a flagship Government programme that provides nearly 900 housing related support services, delivered by 106 organisations, across NI. SP allows more than 20000 vulnerable people to live independently, preventing problems that can result in hospitalisation, institutional care or homelessness. A wide range of beneficiaries include frail older people; homeless people; and people with learning disabilities and mental health issues.
Many services are provided in purpose-built accommodation; others are provided in the community through ‘floating support’. Although varying widely, the common focus of SP services is helping vulnerable people to live with the maximum independence and dignity in the community. It provides a crucial safety net to these vulnerable and marginalised people, and is a real 'invest to save' programme. For example, the homelessness sector is the single biggest recipient of SP funding in NI.
SP IS PROVEN TO WORK
Research has demonstrated
that SP is an ‘invest to save’ programme delivering net financial benefits by reducing demand on other public services;
SP saves the public purse £125m per year;
every £1 spent on SP services saves the public purse £1.90;
if SP were not available, £762.86m would be needed to fund alternative services.
THE CURRENT ISSUE
SP schemes face a very real financial challenge and an uncertain future. Funding for SP schemes has been frozen for several years, a ‘real terms’ cut of over 20%, and providers are encountering unavoidable financial pressures. Without strong measures in place to protect services, there is a distinct danger that those in most need may lose out. This will severely affect the quality of life for 20,000 vulnerable and marginalised people and may remove a vital safety net that ensures their well-being and independence. This, in turn, will result in a greater cost burden on other public spending, despite empirical evidence of the programme’s impact. In addition, the NIHE Homelessness Strategy will be effectively undeliverable.
EXISTING SERVICES. To help ensure the viability of existing services, the 5% funding cut to accommodation-based services should be immediately reversed (through recurrent funding, rather than an ad-hoc top-up), with a commitment to annual inflationary increases to sustain their quality. ‘Barnett Consequentials’ for NI resulting from the Budget on 29 October should be prioritised to address the shortfall in SP funding.
EXISTING UNMET NEED. To help meet existing unmet needs (e.g. for increasingly complex homelessness or the number of people requiring housing and support), an appropriate share of funding is provided to ensure people get the support they need.
FUTURE NEED. To inform planning and budgeting for SP services in future, the full strategic needs assessment promised in the 2015 fundamental review is expedited and completed in 2019. This will help allow SP services to be delivered in a way that most complements the modernisation of our health and social care system and deliver on other agreed Departmental Strategies
As part of HAW 2018, we are calling for an urgent funding increase for the Supporting People programme. Click link below for campaign materials and press release template for your organisational use during HAW.