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BUCKINGHAMSHIRE'S SUPPORTING PEOPLE PROGRAMME IS 'FAIR'

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The administration of the supporting people programme by Buckinghamshire CC is judged to be 'fair' with 'promising ...
The administration of the supporting people programme by Buckinghamshire CC is judged to be 'fair' with 'promising prospects for improvement', according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

Supporting people is the government's funding and planning regime for the delivery of housing related support services to a wide range of vulnerable people. The programme started on 1 April 2003.

On a scale of zero to three stars, the Audit Commission's housing inspection team, in partnership with inspectors from the Inspectorate of Probation and the Commission for Social Care Inspection, gave the service one star.

The inspection team found that the council and its partners are providing services of a generally good quality and achieving positive results for service users. In addition, cost savings and enhanced quality are being achieved from a well developed service review programme. But these strengths are outweighed by a number of weaknesses including limited access to services and inconsistent provision of information. Service planning does not address known diversity issues and accountability needs improving.

Patrick Mooney, Audit Commission lead housing inspector, said: 'Buckinghamshire County Council got off to a good start in setting up the supporting people programme in the county. While, in the last 18 months, there has been a strong and positive focus on some areas of work, others have been neglected. As a result, the council still has some important gaps in both its knowledge of local needs and in the delivery of some services to vulnerable people locally. The council has taken on board our comments and is changing its improvement plans to address the identified weaknesses.'

The inspectors found:

  • Services are of a generally good quality and they are achieving positive outcomes for service users. But access to services and information is very limited and inconsistent.

  • Savings and enhanced service quality are being achieved fr om a well developed service review programme.

  • The council's five year strategy for supporting people locally has been completed although there are some important gaps both in knowledge about the need for services and in the provision of actual services.

  • Good relationships exist with the partner agencies who provide services.

  • The influence of service users, carers and advocates on the strategy has been limited and the council's service planning does not address known diversity issues. As a result, some vulnerable groups' needs are not being met.

  • The council's governance framework for supporting people was effective initially but it is no longer fit for purpose.

  • Cross-authority working on supporting people issues, particularly with the four district councils, needs to improve.

    To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including the following. The council should:

  • develop and distribute a county-wide supporting people service directory as a first step towards better co-ordination of access to services;

  • make use of community resources - such as libraries, citizens advice bureaux and health centres - as sources of information about supporting people and as opportunities to communicate with those who might not commonly access the council's own offices; and

  • implement a system for undertaking mystery shopping exercises and other reality checks to test whether access and delivery mechanisms are operating in the expected manner.

    Buckinghamshire CC received a supporting people grant from the government of£5.8m in 2004/05 to meet the cost of its housing related support services. These include supported housing for older people, homeless people and people with mental health problems, people with learning difficulties and services which help vulnerable people living in their own homes. In addition, the council received£331,994 to pay for the costs of administering the supporting people programme.

    Copies of the report are available from Buckinghamshire CC or on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk .

    NOTES TO EDITORS

    The Audit Commission is an independent watchdog responsible for ensuring that public money is spent economically, efficiently and effectively. Our remit covers more than 12,000 bodies in England, which between them spend over£100 billion of public money each year.

    We are active in local government, health, housing, criminal justice and fire and rescue services and consequently have objective evidence on the overall impact of public services on users.

    In addition to making sure that taxpayers receive value for money, our aim is to provide impartial information on the quality of public services. We also act as a force for improvement by providing practical recommendations and spreading best practice.

    We are committed to working in partnership with other regulators and to ensuring that our own activities also represent value for the taxpayer.

    Further details about the Commission can be obtained from its website www.audit-commission.gov.uk

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT THE AUDIT COMMISSION REGIONAL MEDIA OFFICE ON 01179018883

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