Cash for most vulnerable slashed

VITAL cash to help some of Suffolk's most vulnerable people is being slashed by £1million because it is costing the government too much money, the Evening Star can reveal today.

VITAL cash to help some of Suffolk's most vulnerable people is being slashed by £1million because it is costing the government too much money, the Evening Star can reveal today.

Hundreds of elderly, disabled and vulnerable people could be affected by a the government's decision to slash the Supporting People grant.

Charities, councils and housing services across the county, which rely on the money, are now waiting to hear what their fate will be.

Paul West, an Ipswich Borough councillor and member of the Suffolk Supporting People panel, said: "The reductions will hit the people who rely on support. At a time when we are trying to encourage people to stay in their homes and support them, a cut is a backward step."

The reduction in the grant comes after the government underestimated how much the programme, which was introduced in April 2003, would cost.

Due to the rising costs an independent review of the scheme was carried out and as a result all schemes across the country are now seeing their 05/06 grants reduced by an average of 5pc.

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Administered by Suffolk County Council in partnership with a number of local organisations and charities, the grant provides housing support services which aim to help people live independently in their own homes.

These range from advice on benefits or home improvements, to full-time on-site support workers.

In 2004/5 the county received a Supporting People grant of £20,565,529 but in the new financial year this is due to be slashed to £19,336,988 - a 5.9pc reduction.

Nationally, the total grant has been reduced from £1.8 billion in 2004/5 to £1.72 billion in 2005/6. This is due to be reduced again to £1.7 billion in 2006/7.

In Suffolk, a cost-cutting review of services is now underway in a bid to find out where savings can be made with as little impact as possible.

One of the groups which had benefited from the scheme was the Coastal Homeless Action Group, which helps prevent former homeless people ending up on the streets again.

A spokesman said: "We are very concerned our money will be cut.

"We've had to plan for what we will do if we receive less money but at the moment everyone's very much in the dark about what their individual grant will be."

Ian Hartley, chief executive of East Suffolk Mind, another group that benefits, said: "The Supporting People grant has been very helpful and means we have been able to help people who might not have met the criteria for social care funding.

"We are very concerned about where these cutbacks might take place."

A spokeswoman for Suffolk Supporting People, the group which administers the grant, said: "We are meeting to consider the issues later this month and should be able to provide more detail after that."

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which is responsible for setting the level of grant, said: "We have found that money is not always being used in the most cost-effective ways.

"We don't expect local authorities to make any cuts in terms of services. What we do expect them to do is get their own houses in order and look at back-room things like the administration."

Are you worried about the cuts to the grant? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

WHO DOES THE SUPPORTING PEOPLE GRANT HELP?

People who have been homeless or a rough sleeper

Ex-offenders and people at risk of offending and imprisonment

People with a physical or sensory disability

People at risk of domestic violence

People with alcohol and drug problems

Teenage parents

Elderly people

Young people at risk

People with HIV and AIDS

People with learning difficulties

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