HC Deb 31 March 1999 vol 328 cc829-30W
Helen Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement about the outcome of the consultation exercise on the future funding arrangements for supported accommodation. [80071]

Mr. Darling

On 10 December we published the consultation paper "Supporting People: A new policy and funding framework for support services". This proposed replacing the current complicated funding arrangements with one single budget targeted specifically at support services for vulnerable people, which would be administered by Local Authorities. The new arrangements will encourage coherent planning at a local level to deliver more cost effective and high quality services to many thousands of vulnerable people.

Consultation ended on 5 February, and we received a substantial number of responses which have helped inform our decisions on the way forward.

We are pleased to announce that the consultation shows that there is strong support for the principles underlying the Supporting People proposals, and the fact that, for the first time, the provision of support services for vulnerable people is being given the priority it deserves. We have therefore decided to proceed with implementing the long-term proposals from April 2003.

Some respondents had concerns about whether the new arrangements were suitable for sheltered housing. We have looked carefully at these concerns and concluded that including sheltered housing in the new single budget will enable greater flexibility in service models, and bring the benefits of a joint commissioning approach.

In taking work forward, we will work closely with interested parties to develop the detail of the new arrangements to ensure that the long-term objectives become a workable and effective reality.

The new single budget will be preceded by a time-limited transitional Housing Benefit scheme. Although there was a convincing welcome for the proposed transitional Housing Benefit scheme, there were a number of concerns expressed about the date of its introduction. In direct response to these concerns, we have decided to extend the current interim scheme thereby delaying the introduction of the new transitional scheme until April 2000. Aligning the start date of the transitional scheme with the beginning of the financial year will help local authorities in their financial planning.

I am placing a list of the organisations and academic bodies who responded, excluding those who requested confidentiality, in the Library. Copies of the list and specific responses are available on request from the Department of Social Security, by contacting The Inter-Departmental Review of Funding for Supported Accommodation, 5th Floor, The Ade1phi, 1–11 John Adam St, London WC2N 6HT.