Bedfordshire's supporting people programme is improving despite being judged a poor service, according to a recent inspection by the Audit Commission.
It is a national programme administered locally by Bedfordshire CC on behalf of the wider partnership, which includes the two primary care trusts (Bedfordshire Heartlands and Bedford) together with Bedfordshire Probation Service, Bedford BC, Mid Bedfordshire DC and South Bedfordshire DC.
The inspection found that the programme had under performed in its first two years. In particular, it had not been consistent in consulting with service users or their representatives, and details of the programme had not been widely available. It also found that the five-year strategy had not been completed.
However, the inspectors recognise that the programme improved in the third year. Bedfordshire CC had reviewed the governance arrangements, and the council's partners are now involved. Service providers are working well with the programme, and a service review has saved over£1m.
Bob King, cabinet member for community services, said: 'Clearly the programme did not achieve enough in its first two years, but I am pleased that the inspectors recognise the council's recent progress and ability to deliver further improvements.
'As other recent inspections have also found, the county council has developed a culture of improvement that is delivering results. The programme is already making progress, but I look forward to seeing further progress in the Supporting People programme soon.'
Audit Commission press release follows.
Bedfordshire gets no stars for Supporting People
The delivery of the£7.2 million Supporting People programme provided by Bedfordshire County Council is 'poor' and has 'uncertain prospects' to improve, according to a report released today by the independent Audit Commission.
The inspection team awarded the programme a 'poor' no star rating on a scale from zero to three stars. The Council and its partners have not, until recently, provided the leadership and direction that the programme needs to drive improvements in services for vulnerable people.
The Audit Commission carried out the inspection in partnership with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation and the Commission for Social Care Inspection. Supporting People is the government's funding and planning regime for the local delivery of housing related support services to a wide range of vulnerable people. The programme started on 1 April 2003 with£1.72 billion being spent on services across England in this financial year.
Mark Elsworth, Lead Housing Inspector (East of England) at the Audit Commission, said:
'The Council has not made the progress that would be expected in the third year of the programme. The quality of the services funded by the programme has been reviewed, but the strategy for driving the programme lacked the involvement of all the partners and this has still not been revised. The Council has started to address the issues but it is too early to see the outcomes from this work.'
The inspectors found:
.There has been little involvement of service users in the programme.
.Accessible information is limited.
.Services have not yet been looked at strategically to determine what is needed and where.
.The approach to addressing value for money is still being developed although savings have been made.
.Relationships with the service providers are improving.
To help the programme improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:
.Improving the accessibility of services and information.
.Improving the programme's overall management including reviewing the strategy.
.Improving the value for money offered by the services.
Bedfordshire CC receives a Supporting People grant of£7.2m for 2005/06 to meet the cost of its housing related support services. These include supported housing for older people, teenage parents and women fleeing domestic violence. In addition, the council receives£327,362 to pay for the costs of administering the supporting people programme.
Copies of the report are available on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk/reports