HC Deb 10 December 1998 vol 322 cc244-5W
Ms Stuart

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement about the future of the funding arrangements for supported accommodation. [63667]

Mr. Darling

We are publishing today a consultation document "Supporting People" proposing new funding arrangements for support services. The proposals arise from the Inter-Departmental review of funding for supported accommodation.

Over the years Housing Benefit, which was designed to meet housing costs, has been used to meet other costs over which the Government have no control. As a result, Housing Benefit became the primary funding stream for support services that varied in standard from the very good to the very bad. There was no proper consideration of quality or standards.

Nor has there been an effective over-arching strategy of the work of the various government departments involved, or ownership of responsibility for ensuring that vulnerable people receive the support they require. This has resulted in a focus on dealing with problems once they emerge, sometimes pushing people into more acute services than they might have originally needed.

The new arrangements will enable many thousands of vulnerable people to get the cost-effective and high-quality services which they need.

We propose to replace the current complicated arrangements with one single budget targeted specifically at support services. This will ensure that the Government meet people's basic housing costs and at the same time that vulnerable people get the quality help they need to meet their requirements. This will be administered at the local level by Local Authorities. The new single budget will be preceded by a new, time-limited, transitional Housing Benefit scheme which will be implemented when current regulations expire; these regulations were introduced to protect many thousands of vulnerable people whose support services were jeopardised by a Court ruling in July 1997.

Our new proposals for delivering support to vulnerable people will operate in combination with community care, housing, and other existing policies to support vulnerable people in the community. Funding for support services will, for the first time, be clear and practical. This means that many vulnerable people—such as frail elderly people, people with mental health problems, and victims of domestic violence—will be able to remain independent within the community.

The proposals demonstrate the benefits of Inter-Departmental working, bringing together expertise across Government to develop policies that meet the needs of individuals. In carrying this work forward, the Government are keen to involve local government, the Housing Corporation, the providers and other stakeholders throughout the consultation process and beyond.

Copies will be placed in the Library.