Over the last decade the Supporting People programme has dramatically changed the delivery and assessment of assistance for vulnerable people. It has been central to the development and provision of quality accomodation based homelessness services. The following is a briefing on the history of Supporting People, where it sits in central and local government now, and why it remains an important programme.
The Supporting People (SP) programme consisted of seven housing related funding streams which were spread across central government. These streams were brought together in 2003 to form the SP programme. The SP programme was ring-fenced to fund housing related support services for vulnerable adults, including homeless people. In 2009 the SP funding stream was ‘unringfenced’ and local authorities were no longer required to spend this funding on housing related support. In 2011 SP funding became a non-differentiated part of the Formula Grant (central government’s allocation to local authorities) and decisions about where to allocate these funds are now entirely at the discretion of the local authorities. Thus, SP no longer exists in a defined way and is managed in different ways by different local authorities.
The term ‘Supporting People’ continues to have currency as it is a useful way to describe particular types of services. Homeless Link believes it is important to maintain the use of this term as it serves as a straight-forward reminder about the work of these services and the people they assist.
In our SNAP 2011 report the majority of accommodation-based homelessness services indicated that their primary funding source is through ‘Supporting People’. Some 74% of hostel services and 82% of second-stage accommodation services identified Supporting People as their primary funding stream. As the scale of the funding would indicate, the SP reporting requirements were the most detailed and resource heavy of the funding streams identified here.
In 2011 Homeless Link, together with 13 other charities, launched a joint briefing for local authorities: 4 facts, 4 questions about the future of Supporting People. The briefing represents views on Supporting People from across health, social care, housing, homelessness, substance misuse and criminal justice. The briefing highlights the clear benefits of Supporting People services, and the questions that local authorities should consider when making decisions about them. The document was distributed to all local authorities.
The introduction of the SP funding stream dramatically changed the way homelessness services collected data and reported on their services. Services that received SP funding submitted regular Client Record and Outcome data (‘Client Record Returns’). The resultant data set was a close approximation to a national data source on homeless people and a valuable tool for showing the value and quality of services.
In April 2011 central government stopped collecting Supporting People Client Record and Outcome data. For very many organisations and local authorities this data was essential to demonstrating value, measuring quality and accounting for their work, and were thus greatly worried by the potential end of the collection and analysis of this data.
Based on feedback from providers and local authorities on the importance of this data, Sitra consulted providers of housing related support and other stakeholders on these issues and has launched a Common Data Framework.
The Centre for Housing Research at St Andrew’s University continues to collect Client Record and Outcome data from a substantial number of local authorities. Annual data from 2003/04 to 2010/11 covering all authorities is still available on their website, as well as data from April 2011 for those who still provide records.
Organisations that provided services with SP funding were carefully monitored and reviewed to ensure quality. The Supporting People Monitoring and Review Framework included a range of performance monitoring and development processes including the Quality Assessment Framework (QAF)
At time of writing it is not known if the QAF will continue without defined SP funding, current indications are that some LAs will continue to use the QAF but others will not. The QAF was central to the Supporting People Monitoring and Review Framework. The QAF was a tool for monitoring and assessment as well as for development and continuous improvement.