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01 September 2016

Charities call for protection of vital Supporting People funding

On 1st September, Community Housing Cymru and Cymorth Cymru are taking part in a Day of Action to shine the spotlight on the importance of the Welsh Government’s Supporting People (SP) Programme which supports 60,000 vulnerable people across Wales every year. The Day of Action is the springboard for the launch of the ‘Let’s Keep on Supporting People’ campaign which is a celebration of the vital work carried out as a result of SP funding, as well as a plea for Welsh Government to protect this preventative funding stream in this year’s draft budget.

The SP Programme helps almost 60,000 potentially vulnerable and marginalised people annually to live independently in their communities. Over 750,000 lives have been transformed since its inception in 2004. The SP Programme is a preventative service that makes a real difference to the lives of those who benefit from it, increasing their resilience and ability to maintain a secure home and reducing demand on health and social services. Those helped include victims of domestic abuse, those with learning difficulties or mental health needs, people who have suffered trauma, care leavers, ex-service personnel, people threatened with homelessness and older people in need of support.

Although the Supporting People budget was cut by £10m in 2014/15, Community Housing Cymru and Cymorth Cymru welcomed its protection in last year’s budget and are urging Welsh Government to protect it again in the draft budget expected in October. With the UK Government’s announcement last autumn that housing benefit will be capped at the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate for tenants in the social housing sector, the future is worryingly uncertain. Specialist housing for vulnerable, homeless, disabled and older people has higher rent levels because it is more expensive to build and manage. CHC’s research shows that 77% of specified accommodation (including hostels for the homeless and refuges for victims of domestic abuse) currently managed by Welsh housing associations is over the current LHA rate. Many schemes would therefore not be viable if this type of accommodation is not exempt from the cap. The UK Government has conducted a review into the impact and an announcement is expected in the coming weeks. With this level of uncertainty already existing across the UK, the campaign organisers are urging the Welsh Government to provide some certainty and to protect the SP funding stream for a programme that is clearly working.

The SP programme has helped thousands of people. Many of them like Aaron. Aaron has lived with Bipolar Disorder since the age of 13. Complications from lithium prescription damaged his kidneys and resulted in diabetes. A family illness led to him developing PTSD and depression. Homelessness charity, The Wallich, offered Aaron support, funded by SP. He said: “My time being supported by The Wallich is the fastest recovery I have ever had. Although I’m still supported by Housing First Anglesey and Pathfinder, it feels as though I have a road to follow to recovery, which I never had before.”

Auriol Miller, Director of Cymorth Cymru, the umbrella body for organisations working with marginalised and at-risk people in Wales, said: “We are currently operating in a very uncertain environment. The Supporting People Programme is an extremely effective funding stream which has a proven track record in prevention. A 10% cut could mean 6,000 fewer people being supported and potentially slipping through the net. It is vital that this funding stream is protected moving forward.

Stuart Ropke, Chief Executive of Community Housing Cymru, the membership body for housing associations in Wales, said: ‘We understand the budgetary pressures on the Welsh Government, but protecting the SP budget will ultimately reduce the strain on health and social services budgets further down the line and will support thousands of people to live independent lives as a result of early intervention.”