Cllr Richard Holmes has added the Ulster Unionist Party’s support to a call for a review of the Supporting People Programme. A motion on the review received unanimous support at Tuesday’s Corporate Policy & Resources Council meeting.
Cllr Holmes outlined the UUP’s view: “We believe the main purpose of the Supporting People Programme should always be to support people to live independently for as long as possible. The annual budget of £72.8m has been frozen since 2014 which means that the budget has been cut in real terms in every year since. Accommodation based services were cut by 5% in the last year alone.
“Given our ageing population, increasing numbers of people living with disabilities and serious pressures on other housing providers – demand for the supporting people programme is constantly growing. The programme supports 19,000 people annually and the programme needs certainty for the future.
“We understand and agree with the need for the DFC and NIHE to try to review and improve the programme. Unfortunately, however, instead of fixing some of its failings, parts of the programme have been turned on their head – including those that were working well.
“The UUP is very concerned about the attempt by the NIHE to move the programme towards a presumption of floating support. We believe this is more motivated by cost cutting rather than benefits to programme user. The proposed changes have also greatly raised concerns among staff.
“The Ulster Unionist Party supports the idea of an independent review. A programme reviewed by its own funder is not independent, so the Department of Communities should be a bit more honest when proclaiming the success and impartiality of its own input. We also believe trade unions must also have a key role in any future review to ensure the voices of staff are heard.”