Politics

Welsh Government under fire over Supporting People budget "disappearance"

Plans to merge homelessness fund with other grant schemes could result in £13m cut, says housing body

The Welsh Government is facing criticism over the “disappearance” of their Supporting People budget line – despite promising to ring-fence the fund earlier this month.

The 2018/19 budget proposals attributed £124.4m to the Supporting People programme but this is not in the 2019/20 outline.

Instead, the scheme appears to have been merged with other initiatives ­– Flying Start, Families First, Communities First and an employment grant scheme – under the banner of the “Early Intervention – Prevention and Support Grant” with the budget of £252 million. This would mean money would be cut by £13 million.

Politicians should be making sure that programmes like Supporting People remain ring-fenced and focused on housing-related support that alleviates homelessness

The move comes as a sharp contrast to the assurances that the Welsh Government made on October 1, which promised that Supporting People would be protected for the next year.

The programme funds housing-related support services that a landlord or other provider such as a voluntary organisation can provide.

Speaking at the time of the agreement with Plaid Cymru, Welsh Government Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said: “We are pleased we have been able to agree this two-year deal with Plaid Cymru, which secures the whole of our budget.

“This agreement builds on the one reached between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru last year and includes a series of recurrent allocations for the Welsh language, arts, end-of-life-care, mental health, higher education and Visit Wales.

“We have also been able to agree capital funding to take forward the new integrated healthcare centre in Cardigan and the results of the feasibility studies into a national art gallery and football museum in North Wales, which were agreed as part of last year’s agreement.

“We are pleased we have been able to agree this two-year deal with Plaid Cymru, which secures the whole of our budget.

“This agreement builds on the one reached between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru last year and includes a series of recurrent allocations for the Welsh language, arts, end-of-life-care, mental health, higher education and Visit Wales.

“We have also been able to agree capital funding to take forward the new integrated healthcare centre in Cardigan and the results of the feasibility studies into a national art gallery and football museum in North Wales, which were agreed as part of last year’s agreement.”

This decision is both baffling and dangerous at a time when Welsh Government and third sector statistics show that homelessness and rough sleeping is rapidly increasing across Wales

But Cymorth Cymru, the umbrella body for providers of homelessness and housing-related support services in Wales, has expressed disappointment that the budget proposals appear to show that the protection for the fund will not extend beyond next year.

Cymorth Cymru Director Katie Dalton said: “I am furious that the Supporting People budget line has disappeared from the 2019/20 Welsh Government budget just three weeks after we were told that this funding would be protected for the next two years.

“We are extremely concerned that this budget, which specifically focuses on homelessness and housing-related support has merged with several programmes that have no direct relation to housing or homelessness prevention.

“This decision is both baffling and dangerous at a time when Welsh Government and third sector statistics show that homelessness and rough sleeping is rapidly increasing across Wales. Politicians should be making sure that Programmes like Supporting People remain ring-fenced and focused on housing-related support that alleviates homelessness, rather than risking the dilution or even disappearance of these funds in future.

“We are also deeply concerned that the disappearance of a distinct budget line means that the Welsh Government can no longer be held to account on how much they spend on Supporting People, effectively enabling them to hide from their responsibilities to provide homelessness and housing-related support to vulnerable people in Wales.

“We urge the Welsh Government to reverse this decision before the final budget is laid and reinstate a specific Supporting People budget line under housing policy.”

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