Memorandum from Tyneside Cyrenians Ltd (SPP 18)
Tyneside Cyrenians remain concerned that funding currently allocated to existing services could over time be reallocated. We believe the need for existing services has intensified as our ability to deal with rough sleeping has improved, however single homelessness does not fall within the statutory framework that protects older people or people with a severe learning disability and concurrently we identify the removal of ring fence as a damaging prospect in our efforts to support those facing chronic exclusion and related issues.
Furthermore we anticipate drivers such as the ageing population; expectations of individualised budgets and the economic downturn are likely to intensify pressures on local budgets. We share sector concerns, that under such pressures, resources will be focused onto statutory groups to the detriment of some of the most severely excluded individuals in our society.
We would also argue strongly that any ministerial decision to remove the Supporting People ring fencing must be balanced with a clear commitment from Government to investigate and track the impact on socially excluded groups needing support over the medium to long term.
This should, we believe, be a specific area of focus within the Comprehensive Area Assessment, complemented by direct research.
However, there also needs to be clear responsibility within national and regional government for taking steps if it appears that socially excluded groups are losing needed services as a result of the changes. Within the supporting people programme there has been an element of cross authority work between local authorities to ensure the needs of excluded groups are met. Indeed, as there is an expectation within the programme that local connection rules should not apply to supporting people provision, removal of the ring fence could lead to a post code lottery for services for socially excluded groups.
Below is a snapshot of our assessment of the success and impact of Supporting People in its present form.
What has the supporting people program achieved so far?
· Keeping those that need the service at the heart of the program
From the beginning, Supporting People has been a partnership effort. The constant communication and interaction between service users, service providers, umbrella organisations, local and central Government has resulted in a massive improvement in support given to socially excluded groups.
Supporting people has provided strategically planned quality services that meet the needs of the people who use them.
Tyneside Cyrenians provides housing-related support which helps prevent problems that could lead to hospitalisation, institutional care or homelessness. Groups that benefit include people with mental health problems or physical disabilities, travellers, refugees, people with drug or alcohol problems, offenders, older people, and women at risk of domestic violence.
Very often, stable housing and the support to live independently is the first step on the road for somebody putting their life back together. It is the first step to gaining or regaining self-respect and the respect of everybody else around them. It is the first step towards being a real part of the local community.
· Enhancing partnership with the third sector
The Quality Assurance Framework (QAF) for SP can claim enormous credit for improving the lives and quality of service for everyone who has accessed supported housing since 2003.
The QAF provides a benchmarking system and nationally recognised standard measure, which has improved the quality of support within the sector by adding the 'Places of Change' agenda, a comprehensive standard and benchmark is created
The monitoring and review process, contracting and data collection within the SP programme has produced a wealth of information on which to take informed strategic decisions. The process has been recognised as good practice and replicated as a commissioning tool for a variety of social care applications. The creation of supporting people teams within local authorities led to the development of expertise and knowledge of a hitherto misunderstood service. The removal of the ring fence has already seen supporting people teams subsumed into wider adult commissioning structures. The loss of this in-house expertise in relation to services predominately provided by the third sector can only have a detrimental effect on partnership with specialist providers in the sector.
The supporting people programme valued diversity within the sector from the outset. Already commissioning has seen a tendency towards larger contracts, which limits opportunities for smaller providers. Lack of understanding of the sector will ultimately lead to commissioning based on price and a loss of choice for service users and diversity of provision.
Ring fence removal
In a client group with complex needs, it is hard to separate the needs for health care, social care and housing related support. In this context, better engagement and joint commissioning from PCT's and Social Services would be welcome and, in the longer term, a move to integrated budgets. It is in the experience of the homeless sector that homeless people with complex needs often do not get access to community care assessments or services and are shunted between different teams and different authorities or get inadequate assessments. While this situation persists, our concern is that a move to integrated budgets and removal of the ring fence would be to the disadvantage of this client group and funds would be diverted to those for whom social services perceive a statutory responsibility, who often do not include homeless people. When Supporting People is integrated into Local Area Agreements we believe there needs to be a specified pot within LAAs or regional agreements for socially excluded groups.
It is unlikely that Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) are taking 40% of their membership from people with a knowledge, understanding or interest in Supported Housing. Where LSPs have been persuaded to adopt either 141 or 142 within their basket of 35 priority targets within the LAA, Regional
Government Offices have often rejected their inclusion
Rough sleepers, drug users and ex-offenders.
High quality services;
The proposals will give providers clarity about funding arrangements, release resources away from the management of overlapping funding structures, create a new framework for providing effective and efficient services and A logical and transparent approach to planning. The proposals will encourage a more rational and consistent approach in consultation with service providers, to achieve effective and high quality services that meet people's needs.
Removing the SP ring-fence within ABG will not contribute to any of the above objectives
For the socially excluded, 'mainstreaming' relates to mainstream housing, providing housing-related support that enables and empowers service users to Obtain, Maintain and Sustain accommodation. Nothing within the removal of the ring fence for SP and transfer into ABG enables or ensures that service users will have better access to mainstream housing.
Analysis by Homelesslink shows that 36% of LSPs failed to include NI 141 and NI 142, and that the percentage of LSPs including the other NI's related to supported housing barely reaches double figures.
We would like to highlight the need for rigorous monitoring of outcomes under National Indicators 141 and 142 even where a local authority has not elected for these as part of their 35 indicators in their Local Area Agreement.
We believe that removing the ring fence from SP and transferring funding without criteria or restriction to ABG fails to mainstream services for the socially excluded, does not improve joint commissioning or planning, places short-term supported accommodation at risk (whilst also removing emergency access and withdrawing funding for supervision), and that an alternative model is required.
What opportunity does the removal of the ring fence offer for innovation and improvement in the delivering of housing related support?
Close adherence to prescriptive definitions of housing related support by local SP teams have hampered providers in delivering holistic packages of support to enable socially excluded people to progress towards independence. In particular, support around treatment in relation to substance misuse and employability initiatives have been regarded as outside of the remit of SP funded projects. We recognise that the removal of the ring fence provides greater opportunity for flexibility and targeting of funds to meet the wider support needs of individuals. However, we are concerned that the removal of the ring fence will not necessarily lead to resources being targeted towards socially excluded groups.