Belfast Telegraph

Vulnerable at risk as Housing Executive scheme faces cut

By Staff Reporter

Planned cuts to a Housing Executive programme for vulnerable people have been condemned as "devastating".

The budget for the Supporting People scheme is facing a major squeeze, with some programmes in line for a 5% reduction in funding.

Supporting People offers housing-related help to vulnerable people so they can improve their quality of life and maintain their independence.

These services can be provided in homes, hostels, sheltered housing and other specialised, supported areas.

A Housing Executive spokesperson said: "The Housing Executive can confirm that we have written to organisations who receive Supporting People funding regarding this year's financial allocation.

"While the baseline Supporting People budget has been protected at £72.8m, there are a number of inescapable new financial commitments which need to be met.

"This has necessitated a review of the funding previously provided for a number of schemes, and regrettably we have had to advise providers of a reduction to some budgets in the order of 5%."

"After careful consideration, we have deferred the impact of these proposed reductions, initially for the first three payment periods, to allow providers to plan and put appropriate arrangements in place to scale up or scale down service activities.

"This will also allow time for the broader budget situation to become clearer.

"We are very mindful that users of Supporting People-funded services are some of the most vulnerable in society and we will work with providers to attempt to mitigate the impact of these funding reductions."

Trade union Unison called for the cuts to be put on hold while talks continue at Stormont to save power-sharing.

Joe McCusker, Unison regional organiser, said the reduction would have "a devastating impact on those organisations that provide the service and the most vulnerable in our society who rely on Supporting People".

He added: "Supporting People Providers are already financially stretched in providing the service as it stands and I fear that this could lead to a reduction in the support that service users receive and that the jobs of dedicated staff who provide invaluable support will be at risk."

Unison also said the Department for Communities should halt the plans and await the outcome of the current Stormont talks.

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