The Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations has welcomed the announcement that additional funding is to be provided for the Supporting People programme, but has cautioned that more support is needed to ensure the programme can continue to deliver for vulnerable people.
Supporting People allows 19,000 people per year to live more independently, and helps prevent hospitalisation, homelessness or premature admission to residential or nursing care. The programme is vital in supporting older people, those with physical and learning disabilities. It also provides essential support for other vulnerable groups, including those with mental health conditions, looked-after-children, those with drug and alcohol issues and victims of domestic violence.
The Supporting People budget has had no additional funding since 2008. Now, through the Department for Communities, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive has confirmed that there will be two backdated increased, one of 4.6% from November 2021, and one of 1.2% from April 2022. It is expected that the backdated uplifts will be paid by February 2023.
A number of Housing Associations provide Supporting People services and have worked with NIFHA and other providers in campaigning to increase funding.
Welcoming the announcement, Patrick Thompson, Deputy Chief Executive of NIFHA, said “Supporting People is a vital programme, which supports thousands of people to live independently and have a much better quality of life. Investing in a programme which provides this type of support has a much wider impact, including taking pressure of the health service. The savings are made because the housing support provided prevents problems that can result in hospitalisation, or premature admission to residential or nursing care. Each of these are more costly than the housing support provided through Supporting People
“The increase that has now been provided is welcome, and it will allow this valuable work to continue. But there must be a long term plan in place to ensure the long term viability of Supporting People through a proper funding commitment. For 15 years the Supporting People budget has remained static, which is real term cut of around 30%. What this has meant for service providers, such as Housing Associations, is that they have had to subsidise the service to keep it going.
“We will continue to engage with the Department for Communities, and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive highlighting the positive impact of Supporting People, most importantly on the people who benefit from the service.”