Social Development Minister, Mervyn Storey MLA, has confirmed that the Supporting People Programme remains one of his strategic priorities.
The Minister was speaking as he published a Review of Supporting People which found that the programme has delivered significant quality of life benefits to those who have availed of its services. The programme has also assisted the resettlement of people from institutional settings and, importantly, prevented problems that could have led to hospitalisation, institutional care or homelessness.
Evidence was also found that Supporting People services prevented crime and reduced pressure on health and social care budgets.
Publishing the review during Homelessness Awareness Week, the Minister said: “The Supporting People Programme supports more than 17,000 vulnerable people each year in Northern Ireland to live independently. I have spent a lot of time visiting schemes and projects, meeting staff, clients and tenants and hearing first-hand about the valuable work being done. It is evident both from my visits and throughout the Review report that the services provided are of huge benefit to clients. I am pleased to see the programme is making a real difference to people’s lives.
“When I took up office, I took the important step of protecting the Supporting People budget – a demonstration of my commitment to this programme during a time when public finances are under strain and despite having to find significant savings across my Department.”
The Review, a key action within the Department’s ‘Facing the Future Housing Strategy for Northern Ireland’, was an opportunity to evaluate what the programme has achieved, and make recommendations for continuous improvement going forward. The Review makes a total of 13 recommendations to improve the economy and efficiency of the programme.
These include an overhaul of the way needs are assessed and services are commissioned, greater standardisation in the amounts of money paid to providers for similar services and improvements in how the performance is measured and monitored.
The Minister continued: “I have accepted each of the recommendations and my Department will now convene an Implementation Steering Group to take them forward to ensure that this programme continues to deliver for some of the most vulnerable in society. I look forward to continuing to work with all our partners to ensure that Supporting People can keep shaping lives for the better well into the future.”