The money will help councils prepare for the introduction of a new and more efficient funding system for housing support services in 2003, called 'Supporting People'.
Housing support services covers practical measures such as:
Help in setting up a tenancy
Help with safety and security
Developing budgeting/domestic/life skills
Counselling and emotional support
Advice, advocacy and liaison with other agencies
Groups who should benefit include frail elderly people, people with mental health problems, people with learning disabilities, and those who have been living in institutions such as hospitals or prisons.
Speaking at a conference organised by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, Ms Curran said: 'Funding for housing support services at the moment is complex and fragmented. We must find a more effective way of linking resources with the needs of vulnerable individuals.
'That's why Supporting People is so important. It will bring funding together so that councils can administer it directly, enabling them to plan services in a more strategic way based on local needs.
'This also means housing support can be integrated with local housing strategies, community care, social inclusion and health. Our goal is to help vulnerable people live more independent lives.'
The funding package of£15m announced by Ms Curran today is aimed at helping local authorities undertake the preparatory work associated with the introduction of the new 'Supporting People' regime in April 2003.
It will be made available over three years with£2m in 2001-02,£5m in 2002-03 and£8m in 2003-04. Supporting people is a new integrated policy and funding framework for housing support services. It will create a coherent policy and funding framework to support vulnerable people in different types of accommodation and tenure in a way that is responsive to their needs.
A number of funding streams are being brought together, notably the support element of housing benefit, and transferred to local authorities, which will be responsible for the administration of the new arrangements.
The new funding arrangements will mean that, for the first time, there will be a secure legal footing for the funding of support services, which were previously delivered in an ad hoc and incoherent way.
The new arrangements will apply equally in Scotland, England and Wales. However, there will be differences in the approach to their delivery. This will reflect the differing structure of local authorities in Scotland.
It will take some time to plan and implement the new arrangements. As part of this process, a new, transitional housing benefit scheme to pay for support services came into force in April 2000.
In addition, the Scottish executive is producing guidance on all aspects of the new Supporting People regime for local authorities, their strategic planning partners, supported housing providers and users.
The Scottish executive has also established a stakeholders group to assist in the consideration of issues concerned with the implementation of the new arrangements in 2003.
This group is drawn from organisations that build and manage supported housing, who represent people living in supported housing and who deliver support services.