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Supporting People campaign moves up a gear in fight to protect services

The campaign to safeguard services for vulnerable people and help prevent them becoming homeless has moved up a gear this week with the launch of a publicity drive about the issue.

The following statement was released on Thursday, August 3 on behalf of CRISPP by PR experts Weber Shandwick, who will be rolling out the campaign across each constituency in Northern Ireland over the coming weeks.

To find out what you can do to help, follow Let’s Keep Supporting People on Facebook or @KeepSP_NI

 Funding issue threatens critical services for more than 20,000 people

  • Supporting People programme prevents hospitalisation, institutional care or homelessness
  • NIHE orders service providers to find £3million of savings from ring-fenced budget
  • Cuts will render vital services unsustainable

Critical schemes and services credited with preventing homelessness and saving lives are facing closure following sweeping cuts by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

Each year, the Supporting People programme, delivered by the charitable and voluntary sector, assists more than 20,000 people in Northern Ireland to live independently and avoid problems that can result in hospitalisation, institutional care or homelessness.

However, despite receiving ring-fenced programme funding from the Department for Communities, NIHE has ordered many service providers to find cost savings totalling £3million to enable it to reallocate cash elsewhere. The blanket command was issued without an assessment of performance quality nor the sustainability of the programme’s 100-plus service providers.

Ricky Rowledge, co-Chair of Committee Representing Independent Supporting People Providers (CRISPP) said: “This short term saving will have a profound and expensive long-term legacy. Services cannot be sustained at the standard required and there is a very real danger that those in most need will not receive adequate support or may lose out entirely. We are calling for NIHE to reinstate the funding immediately and work in partnership with delivery agents to agree a sensible reform and strategy for Supporting People.

“This programme has been an immense success, enabling thousands of people to take control of their lives and live with as much independence as possible.  It’s role in preventing homelessness cannot be underestimated, but cuts to this programme will make the Homelessness Strategy for Northern Ireland 2017-2022 effectively undeliverable.”

The Supporting People’s core budget has been frozen for 10 years, a ‘real terms’ cut of over 20%, and charitable and voluntary organisations fear many services will close in light of the new reduction.

 Ben Collins, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations, said: “It is deeply concerning that there has not been proper and meaningful engagement with the community and voluntary sector on the reduction of the available ring-fenced budget. Independent research has shown that every £1 spent in Supporting People schemes saves £1.90 for other public services, so the loss of funding will not just affect the quality of life for more than 20,000 people it will result in a greater cost burden on other public spending.

“We agree a strategic reform of the Supporting People programme is needed, but NIHE has taken this action without strategic consideration and failed to engage in a proper consultation with frontline organisations.  Imposing cuts on all services punishes the users of effective providers without adequately addressing services that may be underperforming.”

More than 100 organisations are affected by the cut to the Supporting People programme including:

Alpha Housing (NI) Limited, Apex Housing Association, Barnardos, Choice Housing, Depaul Northern Ireland, East Belfast Mission, Extern Northern Ireland, Inspire Wellbeing, Leonard Cheshire Disability,

MACS Supporting Young People, Mencap, Shelter (NI) Ltd., Simon Community  First Housing and Women’s Aid.

Ricky Rowledge and Ben Collins are the co-Chairs of Committee Representing Independent Supporting People Providers (CRISPP)