Calls For Joint Funding To Help Vulnerable Groups

Neighbouring local authorities should pool their Supporting People cash to fund services for vulnerable people who move across borough boundaries, a senior government official has urged.

Terrie Alafat, director of housing strategy and support at the Communities and Local Government department said that the government would like to see more collaboration between councils in the new era for supported housing created by the launch of its Supporting People strategy.

The new strategy calls on councils to work together in planning housing support services at a regional level to meet the needs of vulnerable groups. Ms Alafat said she was keen to extend joint work between local authorities but admitted it could not be forced. ‘We’re not going to change the [funding] distribution system. We think it should be through local authorities and working at a local level through local area agreements.’

The success of schemes funded by a number of neighbouring authorities relied on their agreement, she added. ‘I’m quite interested in the extent to which some of the work that is now being done at sub-regional level could be extended. But it’s a very tricky issue, because with any type of new system, we have to get boroughs to put their money in,’ she said. ‘If the government just tries to change things in a wholesale way, we might lose much of what we have gained in Supporting People.’

In launching the strategy, local government minister Phil Woolas said the government had now reached a ‘watershed’ in the £1.7 billion programme, with a need for a new focus on user involvement. The strategy includes a pledge to develop a national template for new ‘charters for independent living’, which sets out what service users can expect from the service.

The department is also pledging to help third sector organisations compete for contracts by helping to strengthen smaller organisations. It says local authorities will be expected to provide three-year funding pledges to charitable organisations and to agree to meet their overheads. The strategy includes the introduction of an ‘integrated assessment process’. This aims to ensure that service users have their housing, health and social care needs assessed at the same time.

Stephen Carr, executive member for health and adult services at London Councils, said it was essential for the government to recognise the challenges faced by London authorities in providing housing support. ‘We are keen to work with the CLG to develop an allocation formula that takes into account London’s special circumstances,’ he said.