Scale and impact of government cuts to the Supporting People budget revealed
Services cut for 46,000 vulnerable people
More than 46,000 of England’s most vulnerable people have had vital care services scrapped or scaled back after council budget cuts forced the termination of hundreds of support contracts.
Freedom of information requests reveal that councils across England entirely withdrew Supporting People money from 305 services in the 2011/12 financial year, impacting on 6,790 people. SP services that help homeless people, those with mental health problems and drug and alcohol addiction are among those hit.
The FOI requests to 152 councils, obtained from a source that did not wish to be named, show 685 services have had SP funding reduced, affecting a further 39,621 people.
The SP programme provides housing-related support for more than 1 million vulnerable people.
The scale and impact of the of cuts emerged for the first time as housing minister Grant Shapps this week urged councils to protect their SP budgets for 2012/13, amid providers’ fears a second year of council cuts could be even worse.
Domini Gunn-Peim, director of public health and vulnerable communities at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: ‘The figures are the first indication the cuts are having a direct impact on services.’
The government slashed the unring-fenced annual £1.6 billion SP programme by 3 per cent over four years in October 2010’s comprehensive spending review.
The FOI data shows councils made much greater cuts to their SP budgets - on average 10.3 per cent in the first year.
But some local authorities made much harsher cuts, including a 44 per cent cut at Cornwall Council, 42 per cent at Hull Council and 39 per cent at Peterborough Council.
In contrast, some authorities, including Derbyshire, Bexley, Milton Keynes and Norfolk, have protected their budgets entirely.
Ms Gunn-Peim said the disparity could be put down to differing council priorities. ‘In some areas local authorities have a legal obligation to provide services, so the non-statutory services miss out. It’s “do we do what we have to rather than what we’d like to do”,’ she added.
Rilba Jones, cabinet member for health and equality at Hull Council, said the council’s decision to reduce 10 services, affecting 4,491 people, was due to a larger retendering process. ‘We had no option,’ she said.
Of the 150 councils which responded to the survey, 79 (53 per cent) were decommissioning services in the first year of cuts.
Jai Dosanjh, chief executive of Apna Ghar housing association, which provides housing for disabled people across six London boroughs, said his organisation has lost 12 per cent (£26,000) of its total contract values and had been forced to cut the rates it charges and make efficiency savings of up to 5 per cent as a result.
Homelessness services were hit hardest by the council cuts with 47 authorities opting to decommission some services. Two weeks ago the latest government figures showed that homelessness had risen by 14 per cent in the past year.
Mark McPherson, director of practice and regions at Homeless Link, said the organisation was ‘deeply concerned’ about the cuts.