I joined Sitra staff watching the announcements about the CSR in our training room, surrounded by workers from the sector who tomorrow will continue to deliver the services to some of the most vulnerable people in society – including those experiencing homelessness, mental health, domestic abuse and ex offenders. I was once again struck by the diversity of services offered under the banner of housing, care and support and how many people’s lives are touched by this work.
As we watched the coverage, in many ways there were no great surprises in the pronouncement – which in itself is surprising. The fact that over the last few months we have been drip fed cut after cut has in some ways contributed to the sensation of ‘limbo’ that has engulfed many working in public services. I was also reminded of the way in which the focus on cuts has raised both fear and anxiety amongst service users – who are looking at changes to housing benefit, lifetime tenancies, reform of disability benefits and cuts to public services – and are fearful of how this will change their life. Whilst our focus is on the way in which the cuts will impact on housing, care and support services it is apparent that the breadth and diversity of the cuts will have a much wider impact on what will be left to augment the support that individuals receive. Full details about Sitra’s analysis of the cuts will be available on our website over the coming days and the most updated perspective can be found here.
The Spending Review contains many changes which will impact the sector – but key areas of focus for our members include:
- Supporting People grant mentioned in the announcement and commitment to over £6bn over the four year period
- Supporting People funding moved from Area Based Grant to Formula Grant
- Disabled Facilities Grant rising with inflation
- Homelessness Grant protected at annual figure £400m
- CLGs overall grant will be reduced by 51% over the 4 year period
- Requirement to have and report against Local Area Agreements to be scrapped
- Establishment of community budgets in 16 local areas to support families with complex needs
- Significant welfare reform – impacting housing benefits, disability benefits, child benefit and tax credits
- £200m of money in 2011-12 to reform local services – which will include an increased emphasis on greater personalisation and increased delivery through voluntary and community sector.
Whilst we have all been waiting for the announcement today – our focus for concern is almost immediately shifting towards local implementation. Since the lifting of the ring fence in 2009, there has been widespread concern that local authorities will use this as an opportunity to divert spending from Supporting People services to other areas of local concern. Whilst the evidence for this to date has not been conclusive, there have been a number of examples where this has happened or has been a significant threat. The most documented has been the Isle of Wight and a report looking at the ramifications of this can be found here. Two local authorities have come out with more detail about their planned spending cuts – and these are all scheduled prior to the spending reviews. One authority is warning all services whose contracts are due to terminate in March next year that they should assume that these will be terminated. This represents over 80 services meeting a diverse range of needs. The other autority is consulting on plans to reduce their SP budget by anything between 10 to 12.5 m – from an original £22.5m level. This represents a cut of between 40 and 66% of the overall SP budget, way above any anticipated central cuts. The decision on both the level and direction of these cuts is a local decision – and one which needs to be challenged at a local level. There are many tools available to support this – and we have grouped some of these together under our web coverage of the CSR – but please send through more so that we can use these as a central point to gather information.
Whilst Sitra and many others have put enormous efforts into influencing the national framework for the spending review – my strong sense is that the real work starts here…