Budget Cuts Could Spell Disaster For Small Supporting People Providers

Small Supporting People providers fear a further round of cuts and closures if the government reduces funding to the programme in this year’s comprehensive spending review.

A survey by Homeless Link, an umbrella group for frontline homelessness organisations, found that its members’ biggest concern was the effect of the review on Supporting People budgets.

Providers have already been hit by a funding squeeze and a change in the way contracts are awarded. One provider, Colchester Quaker Housing Association, has already folded after Essex Council slashed the number of provider contracts from 23 to three (Inside Housing, 3 November).

Lesley Dewhurst, director of Oxford Night Shelter, said her centre had also suffered cuts. ‘Down any lower and we can’t do anything else but cut services,’ she said: ‘We would be on minimal staffing and if we couldn’t provide a good service the whole building would have to close. It’s all or nothing.’

Ben Keegan, project director from Roundabout in Sheffield, which works with young homeless people, said a drop in funding would be demoralising. ‘We will not be able to provide the full service we need to do,’ he explained. ‘We can give a bed to someone and give them minimal support but that will not give them long-term success.’

Halford Hewitt, director of Ipswich Housing Action Group, also said that slashing SP budgets would threaten the survival of smaller providers. ‘It would be a disaster for everyone. It’s the destruction of civil society. Smaller organisations are being penalised much more. There will be no smaller organisations. All that will be left will be large corporate bodies with glossy brochures.’

Jeremy Swain, chief executive of larger SP service Thames Reach, agreed that smaller organisations would start disappearing. ‘The drivers are benefiting the larger organisations. Some of the smaller ones are finding it difficult to compete,’ he said.

Further SP budget cuts following the review would force councils to take ‘difficult decisions’, he said. The government should take into account the economic benefit of the service, Mr Swain urged.

Tom Wilson, chief executive of Julian Housing Support in Norwich, which cares for people with mental health problems, said: ‘In terms of value for money Supporting People, particularly floating support, it is tremendous. Not enough cost benefit analysis is being done.’

Homeless Link chief executive Jenny Edwards said: ‘Many homeless people have multiple needs and can feel that they have a mountain to climb to get their lives back on track. Supported housing is the foundation for putting things right but much more needs to be done to make sure public services are available to this often challenging group.’

The spending review will report before October this year.