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ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES
29th January 1999
SUPPORTING PEOPLE - FUTURE FUNDING FOR SUPPORTED HOUSING
Report by the Director of Social Services, Hampshire County Council
It is recommended that
The Government's objective of unifying the funding streams for supported housing, as laid out in the Consultation paper "Supporting People", is noted by the Association
2.1 Following recent court decisions, and stated government policy, Housing Benefit will now only be used to pay for the bricks and mortar costs associated with a person's housing.
2.2 In recent years Housing Benefit has been used to fund services associated with housing which are now deemed to be outside of its remit.
2.3 The Government has produced a proposal for unifying the support element of Housing Benefit, along with other streams of funding for supported housing, and devolving the new unified budget to local authorities as a new Commissioning budget by the year 2003. The total value is up to £800m nationally.
2.4 The details of the proposal are the subject of the Consultation paper "Supporting People". The proposal is now out to consultation which will end on February 5th 1999.
3 THE CURRENT SITUATION
3.1 For many people involved in Supported Housing the current systems for funding have been seen as unco-ordinated and over complex. Supported Housing providers have been required to secure relatively small amounts of funding from a wide variety of sources in order to sustain a service. The success of a scheme could depend more on their ingenuity in achieving this than because of any measure of need for the service.
3.2 The complexity of funding arrangements has led to a number of drawbacks:
* Services have been configured in ways to ensure that they achieve certain funding regardless of the needs of people using the service.
* There have been ongoing attempts by all agencies to "shunt" costs onto other agencies in an attempt to restrict the use of each budget.
* There has been an entanglement with regulation which has resulted in large amounts of provision with no regulatory framework while others are regulated by more than one agency.
3.3 There is a duplication between different funding mechanisms with two or more separate agencies effectively paying for the same services. For many people there have been large gaps in service provision which have proved to be impossible to fund not because they are not needed but because they fall outside of the often arbitrary eligibility criteria of the major funders.
4 SUPPORTING PEOPLE
4.1 The Governments proposals are that there is a fundamental overhaul of all funding by setting up a new unified, cash limited Commissioning Budget to be devolved to local authorities and shared between Housing, Social Services Departments and other relevant agencies. The total budget would be up to £800m and the proposed implementation date is April 2003.
4.2 The new budget will bring together many of the existing funding arrangements. These are:
* The support element currently paid through housing benefit both through central government and the housing revenue account.
* Supported Housing Management Grant currently administered by the Housing Corporation.
* Probation Accommodation Grants currently administered by the Probation Service.
* Home Improvement Agency Grants currently administered by the Department of Environment Transport and the Regions (DETR).
4.3 Local arrangements for how to allocate the new budget will need to be in place before the money is devolved. There will also be financial incentives to encourage the different statutory agencies to work together effectively.
4.4 The new, more flexible, arrangements will give local authorotites the freedom to fund services in a number of ways. These include individual purchasing, the direct funding of services, and an extension of direct payments from service users.
4.5 Implementation of "Supporting People" will require new legislation with new statutory responsibilities which will not allow for the devolved money to be used for any agencies existing priorities.
5 THE CONSULTATION PROCESS
5.1 Consultation is currently underway. The document "Supporting People" asks for comments on particular questions within the proposal. The main thrust, that is devolution to local authorities, is not for consultation. Comments are requested on details such as which existing funding should be included, what structure should be in place, and how should the available money be distributed.
6.1 The Government is committed to guaranteeing that "the total money for the new single budget will be at least the sum being spent in the previous year through the various budgets that this scheme will replace". The Government will " ensure that sufficient funds are made available to cover the programme and the administrative costs of the proposals".
6.2 There is no clear recommendation that the money should be administered through either Social Services or Housing. However the Government's initial view is that, in two tier authorities "the arrangements are likely to work best by managing them at a County level". It is seen as logical that funding responsibility should reside alongside the Community Care budget, with rigorous safeguards in place to ensure that the new money is not used to fund existing Social Services priorities.
6.3 Excellent working relations already exist in Hampshire which will provide a robust base for the work that is entailed in these proposals. Working arrangements are in place at a local and County level. Our work in the coming years will be to ensure that our relations are effective and practical, involving Housing and Social Services, and also Probation, service users, providers, and the Housing Corporation. Such a forum already is in place.
7.1 The proposals contained in "Supporting People" are a radical and important attempt to address what many people have identified as an unsatisfactory situation. They are also the result of the various Government Departments working together to create a more coherent solution. The proposal is produced by the Interdepartmental Review team, and is signed by eight government departments.
7.2 There are many details that need to be resolved before implementation is possible. However the Governments position is that "the new framework will enable consistency of provision and high quality services"; "more flexible responses to the individual needs and preferences of vulnerable people"; and provide "an integrated approach by promoting joint decision making at the local level".
Director of Social Services, Hampshire County Council
|Author:||Nick Goulder, Policy Manager|
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