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The Draft Budget and Welsh housing

Welsh Government protected the Supporting People programme and increased Social Housing Grant in its Draft Budget for 2016/17.

Housing organisations welcomed this good news in the wake of a UK Spending Review that saw significant reductions in departmental funding. There will also be a second phase of the Help to Buy Cymru equity loan scheme to help home buyers.

However, this was balanced by disappointment over a cut in funding for homelessness prevention and concern that there was no announcement on the rental settlement for social housing.

Supporting People plays a key role in tackling and preventing homelessness and supporting vulnerable people to live independently. In April, Cymorth Cymru and Community Housing Cymru launched the ‘Let’s Keep on Supporting People’ campaign to protect funding. It will now be protected at 2015/16 levels with no further cuts in 2016/17.

Auriol Miller, director of Cymorth Cymru, welcomed the news.

‘For many people, and for many reasons, maintaining a safe, secure home is not always possible without support. Supporting People services help people to build, or rebuild, the kind of lives we all want for ourselves, our friends and our families.

‘In continued difficult times for the sector, any further cuts to Supporting People could have had disastrous consequences for service providers and the people they support. This is why [the] announcement is so welcome.

‘We are absolutely delighted that Welsh Government have recognised Supporting People as a key priority in next year’s budget, and we are grateful for the support that Communities Minister Lesley Griffiths, and the other parties in the Assembly, continue to show this vital programme.’

Recent research (see next WHQ for more details) has shown the positive impact of Supporting People in reducing pressure on the NHS and social services and Auriol said work would continue to demonstrate the case that ‘increased funding will reap benefits for us all’.

Stuart Ropke, chief executive of Community Housing Cymru, welcomed the allocation of £124.4 million. He said:

‘Any further cuts to Supporting People could have had disastrous consequences for vulnerable people across Wales which is why today’s announcement is so welcome.

Over the last year, we have worked in partnership with Cymorth Cymru to highlight the benefits of Supporting People and to call for its protection. We are delighted that this campaign has been heard and will benefit those most in need.’

And he welcomed what he called ‘a good budget for affordable housing’ as Social Housing Grant was increased by £5 milllion on last year to a total of £68.8 million: ‘Financial support from Welsh Government is needed now more than ever. Investment in housing helps stimulate the economy and provides job and training opportunities for local people, as well as funding new affordable homes.’

But on rents, he added: ‘While we welcome the increase in SHG, it is vital to emphasise the importance of a secure rental income stream. We now need Welsh Government to confirm the rental settlement in Wales that was previously agreed.’

John Puzey, director of Shelter Cymru, also welcomed the news on Supporting People but he added that:

‘An 8.1 per cent cut to homelessness prevention is going to have worrying consequences – and is going to make it much harder to successfully implement the Housing (Wales) Act, Wales’ first piece of housing legislation.

‘We’ve been a strong supporter of the Welsh Government’s homelessness prevention agenda in recent years, and so we urge the Government to reconsider this cut. If we can’t keep people in their homes, the knock-on effects will be felt by local government, Supporting People providers, education and the NHS.’

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