Charities call on MLAs to ‘Keep on Supporting People’ in Newry

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info@newrytimes.com
Tuesday, October 14th, 2014
Community, Politics
A coalition of charities and voluntary organisations has called on the Northern Ireland Executive to strengthen a programme that helps vulnerable people in the Newry and Mourne area live as independently as possible. The Supporting People programme provides some 882 housing related support services to aid independent living and prevent problems that can result in hospitalisation, institutional care or homelessness. More than £3 million pounds worth of services are delivered in the Newry and Mourne area through 32 sheltered and supported housing schemes and three floating support services. Introduced in 2003, the programme has dramatically improved the services available to a range of groups including older people, people with learning disabilities, and homeless people. However, funding for Supporting People schemes has now been frozen for seven years and campaigners are concerned about the potential impact of NI Executive spending cuts on the programme. Cameron Watt, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations warned that the future of services relied on by thousands of people requires Supporting People to be strengthened as dedicated programme of housing support, and properly funded by the NI Executive. He explained to Newry Times, “Supporting People has been an immense success, enabling thousands of people to sustain their accommodation and live with as much independence as possible. “Service providers are committed to working with government in its review, but uncertainty on the programme’s future and a prolonged funding squeeze threatens the quality and viability of Supporting People services. “Supporting People must be properly resourced to remain effective and continue delivering strongly for Northern Ireland. Inflationary uplifts are vital in the short-term, and we call on the NI Executive to recognise Supporting People’s value and commit to strengthening it as a dedicated programme of housing support.” Ricky Rowledge, Director of Council for the Homeless Northern Ireland (CHNI), said, “The quality of life for thousands of vulnerable people is heavily dependent on Supporting People. Without strong measures in place to protect services, there is a distinct danger that those in most need may lose out. “The programme has been frozen for seven years which represents a cut in real terms by 20 per cent. Research on delivery in Great Britain confirms that Supporting People is worth every penny and saving taxpayers millions through avoidance of costly hospital admissions and reliance on other services. He added, “We cannot afford to risk the future of a programme that makes such a significant social and financial impact.”

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