Thousands of women fleeing domestic violence, pensioners who rely on home-help support and people with mental health problems could be forced to fend for themselves under expected cuts to a major government support programme, a campaign group warned today.
The National Housing Federation, which represents England’s housing associations, said that with the Treasury instructing all departments to model cutbacks of up to 40% almost 438,000 vulnerable people could see the outreach support that enables them to lead independent lives axed, and temporary accommodation shut as a knock-on effect.
The Federation said the Supporting People programme, which also provides support for those with learning difficulties and ex-offenders, saves the taxpayer money by preventing cash being spent on health, social services and the criminal justice system. It fears that a 40% cut to the programme would end up costing the taxpayer £1bn a year in the longer-term through increased demand on services.
The Federation added that cuts to the Supporting People programme could lead to an increase in crime, with the closure of hostels for ex-offenders and a reduction in the number of ex-offender support workers. Almost 3,600 former prisoners across the country would get less supervision, and support, to help them reintegrate into society – and therefore be at a greater risk of re-offending.
The Treasury has ordered all government departments to model cuts of 40% in advance of the autumn's spending review and the Federation believes that cuts of this order would have a dire impact on the lives of thousands of those currently receiving vital support and have a substantial social and financial repercussions.
Loss of support
Research by the Federation shows that cuts of 40% to the CLG-funded Supporting People programme, which funds thousands of specialist housing-related services for vulnerable people via local authorities, would lead to:
* The loss of home-based support for 326,000 older owner-occupiers and pensioners living in sheltered accommodation, to help maintain their independence
* The closure of hostels and outreach schemes for 15,600 homeless people
* The closure of women’s refuges for 4,400 victims of domestic violence
* The closure of specialist hostels providing support for 3,600 ex-offenders, as well as the loss of hundreds of ex-offender support workers
* The closure of temporary accommodation and outreach support for 8,600 young people at risk of homelessness
* The closure of drug action programmes and temporary accommodation for 2,300 people with drug problems and
* The loss of home-based and outreach support for a further 77,500 vulnerable people, including those with alcohol dependency problems and learning disabilities.
There is no specific statutory duty to support many of the client groups who currently receive housing related support.
The long-term financial costs would also outweigh the short-term savings from cutting back on services – as demands on the NHS, police forces and the courts surge as a result.
The Federation said that investment in preventative support through housing associations leads to better outcomes for service-users, their families and savings to health and social services budgets, through the avoidance of hospital admissions and reduced numbers of children being taken into care.
A national evaluation has estimated that the £1.6bn spent annually on housing-related support through the Supporting People programme generates savings of £3.41bn to the public purse – by intervening earlier to prevent more severe problems arising, helping people live more independently and avoiding more costly acute services.
Single homeless people use around four times more acute hospital services than the general population, costing at least £85 million in total per year, according to Department of Health. That figure is likely to rise sharply if support is withdrawn to prevent homelessness.
Research also shows that having stable accommodation reduces the risk of re-offending by a fifth.
Federation chief executive David Orr said: 'Supporting People services help hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people lead independent and secure lives, and saves the taxpayer billions of pounds through the avoidance of costly hospital admissions and recourse to other services.
'If the Supporting People budget is substantially cut it will lead to many vulnerable people losing the support they depend on, with the result that they will no longer be able to lead self-sufficient lives and will increasingly have to rely on acute health and other services.
'The Government has repeatedly said that it wants to protect the vulnerable and yet these cuts would hurt many of the most susceptible people in society. It would also lead to increased demands on the health service, social services and the criminal justice system – and have profound social repercussions.'