‘Supporting people funds need protected’

Paul Frew MLA, Cllr Declan O'Loan and Lighthouse Centre Manager Mark Forsythe.
Paul Frew MLA, Cllr Declan O'Loan and Lighthouse Centre Manager Mark Forsythe.

A coalition of third sector organisations has called on the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to reverse cuts to a programme that helps vulnerable people in North Antrim live as self-sufficiently as possible.

Each year, the Supporting People programme assists more than 20,000 people in Northern Ireland to live independently and avoid problems that can result in hospitalisation, institutional care or homelessness. More than £70 million worth of services are delivered in Northern Ireland through 100 Supporting People providers including Living Rivers Lighthouse Hostel, in North Antrim.

However, despite receiving ring-fenced programme funding from the Department for Communities, NIHE has instructed service providers to find cost savings totalling £3million to enable it to reallocate cash elsewhere.

Mark Forsythe, Manager at Living Rivers which operates Lighthouse Hostel in North Antrim, 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.”

Ricky Rowledge, co-Chair of Committee Representing Independent Supporting People Providers (CRISPP) said: “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 North 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 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.

To find out more about Supporting People visit http://www.chni.org.uk/keeponsp.html