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Supporting People: A charity well worth supporting

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Cameron Watt is chief executive of the NI Federation of Housing Associations

Cameron Watt is chief executive of the NI Federation of Housing Associations

Cameron Watt is chief executive of the NI Federation of Housing Associations

Most people are aware of the excellent work of charities like Simon Community NI, Mencap, Depaul Ireland and Fold Housing.

Less well-known is the £70m Supporting People (SP) programme that underpins the housing support provided by these charities and 100 others.

SP now helps 26,000 vulnerable people through a wide range of accommodation-based and floating support services. Older people, people with learning disabilities and homeless people are all beneficiaries.

SP aims to help vulnerable people live with maximum independence in the community. It helps service-users manage their tenancies, pay bills, budget and integrate in to their local area.

Cap Gemini research in Britain shows that SP delivers net financial benefits to Government by reducing pressure on health and other public services. So, as well as improving thousands of lives, it is a valuable "invest to save" programme.

In spite of this track-record, funding to SP projects has now been frozen for seven years - a real-terms cut of more than 20%. More worryingly, it is likely that SP will be one of the budgets under pressure when cuts are made by the Executive.

Since SP was introduced in 2003, it has contributed greatly in reducing rough sleeping and resettling people with disabilities from institutions.

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Transforming Your Care (TYC) aims to prevent unnecessary hospital admission by making the home the hub of care and support. Fulfilling this vision requires not just adequate domiciliary care, but proper housing support to help the frail, elderly and others remain in their own homes.

Tough choices on budgets have to be made in the months ahead. But, as a modest programme that transforms lives and contributes net financial savings, retaining SP as a properly funded, dedicated housing support budget must be a priority.

That is why we are imploring the Minister for Social Development, Mervyn Storey, and his Executive colleagues to "keep on Supporting People".

Cameron Watt is chief executive of the NI Federation of Housing Associations. To find out more about Supporting People visit: www.facebook.com/SupportingPeopleNI, or Twitter: @keepsp_ni


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