Charities calling for ‘Supporting People’ funding to be maintained in east Antrim

Beneficiaries of the Kilcreggan Homes scheme in east Antrim with MLA Roy Beggs.
Beneficiaries of the Kilcreggan Homes scheme in east Antrim with MLA Roy Beggs.

A coalition of voluntary and charitable organisations has called on the Housing Executive to maintain funding to providers of a support programme that helps vulnerable people in east Antrim.

Each year, the Supporting People programme assists more than 20,000 people in the province to live independently. More than £74 million worth of services are delivered through 100 SP providers, including Kilcreggan Homes.

Elizabeth McDowell, and Kelly Wilson of Kilcreggan Homes with East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson.

Elizabeth McDowell, and Kelly Wilson of Kilcreggan Homes with East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson.

Earlier this year, NIHE implemented a five percent funding reduction across accommodation-based SP schemes, putting the viability of many schemes at risk. In recent weeks, the Department for Communities gave NIHE a one-off non-recurrent £2.6million allocation to the programme, however there is uncertainty over how the funding can be drawn down and fears that monies received will be cut again in April 2018.

Ricky Rowledge, co-chair of Committee Representing Independent Supporting People Providers, said: “We are urging the Housing Executive to maintain full funding for 2018 for east Antrim. We are up for reform and want to work in partnership with the Housing Executive and Department for Communities to deliver a strategic remodelling of the programme.”

Damian Cassidy, manager at Kilcreggan Homes in Carrickfergus, said: “Supporting People has been an immense success, enabling thousands of people to sustain their accommodation and live with as much independence as possible. However, increasing costs and reductions in annual funding are impacting on the long-term quality and viability of many services.

“The quality of life for thousands of vulnerable people depends on this programme and it must be properly resourced to remain effective and continue delivering strongly.”

Independent research has shown that every £1 spent in Supporting People schemes saves £1.90 for other public services. 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.

Ben Collins, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations, said: “This short term saving will have a profound and expensive long-term legacy in east Antrim. 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 to all providers and work in partnership with us to agree a sensible reform and strategy for Supporting People.”

More than 100 organisations are affected by the cuts 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.