Charities Community Housing Cymru and Cymorth Cymru are taking part in a Day of Action today [September 1] to highlight the importance of the Welsh Government’s Supporting People (SP) Programme, and the importance of it being protected in this year’s budget.
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.
Annually, almost 60,000 potentially vulnerable and marginalised people – are helped by SP funding to live independently in their communities. More than 750,000 people have been helped by it since its inception in 2004.
The SP Programme is a preventative service that helps those who benefit from it to increase their resilience and ability to maintain a secure home, which reduces demand on health and social services. Those helped include victims of domestic abuse, people with learning disabilities or mental health needs, those who have experienced trauma, care leavers, ex-service personnel, people threatened with homelessness and older people in need of support.
Although the SP budget was cut by £10 million 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, which is 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 uncertain. Specialist housing for vulnerable, homeless, disabled and older people has higher rent levels because it is more expensive to build and manage. Community Housing Cymru’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.
Aaron is one person to have benefitted from SP. He has lived with bipolar since the age of 13. Complications from lithium prescription damaged his kidneys and resulted in diabetes. A family illness led to him developing post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Homelessness charity The Wallich offered Aaron support, funded by SP. “My time being supported by The Wallich is the fastest recovery I have ever had,” he said. “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, added: “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.”