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A vital support mechanism

Hugh Russell blogs on the launch of the 2016 Let’s Keep on Supporting People campaign. 

Hugh Russell Bio ImageFollowing the success of last year’s Let’s Keep on Supporting People (SP) campaign, which saw the programme’s funding protected and ringfenced, CHC and Cymorth Cymru have joined forces once again to launch a new, joint campaign to protect and increase this crucial fund.

The Supporting People programme helps almost 60,000 potentially vulnerable and marginalised people annually to live independently in their communities. More than 750,000 people have been supported since its inception in 2004. Having worked previously at Llamau, Wales’ leading homelessness organisation, I’ve seen first-hand the transformative impact that SP-funded services can have on vulnerable people’s lives: care-leavers who couldn’t look their support workers in the eye when first meeting them, for example, whose lives had, to that point, been a succession of traumatic and destabilising crises. Because of SP, people like this are supported to achieve stability and independence. SP means that vulnerable people, often for the first time, can secure, long-term accommodation, achieve educational qualifications, move into work and, crucially, develop self-confidence and a sense of their own worth.

Further, the SP programme provides landlords and support providers with some stability at a time when the housing sector is in real need of certainty. UK government welfare reforms, notably the introduction of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) cap on social housing, threaten to completely undermine supported housing across the UK and the publication of the findings of a supported housing review loom over us, threateningly. Wales has thus far been fortunate in that SP has been protected, offering at least a chink of light in these dark days for supported housing providers; contrast this with England, where the ringfence was removed and SP budgets were annihilated. We cannot allow this to happen here.

Whilst we know that our campaigning led to cross-party support for SP in the last Assembly, we cannot rest on our laurels. A new government and a raft of new AMs may have different ideas as to the future of this vital support mechanism and we cannot take any chances. We have to raise our voices, as a sector, and ensure that politicians of all parties know exactly what the most vulnerable people in Wales stand to lose, should the budget be cut.

Hugh Russell is a policy officer at Community Housing Cymr

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