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 April 1 2003.£1.8bn is being spent on these services across England in this financial year.
Roy Irwin, chief housing inspector, said: 'Although we can see that services have improved for some vulnerable people in Lincolnshire there is a lack of robust and supported partnership arrangements to take this programme forward, to make sure that value for money is achieved and to meet the needs of the wide range of vulnerable people within the county. The county council has responded positively to the findings of the inspection and is beginning to introduce new ways of working.'
The inspectors found that:
* There are good working relationships with service providers and services for vulnerable people have expanded; however
* Information on the programme is difficult to find and has not been produced in conjunction with either service providers or users;
* There is a lack of clarity about the groups and structures that support the programme;
* Current services are not offering value for money and this is not being addressed through the service reviews;
* Partners to the programme have not been involved as fully as they need to have been to ensure the effective operation of the programme; and
* Because of problems with the IT system, information on the programme has not been available.
To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including the following:
Lincolnshire CC must:
* work with all the partners involved in the programme to understand why there has not been full participation and work to resolve problems;
* draw up a timetable for the development of the five year strategy and identify theroles that the partners will have in this; and
* develop a user involvement strategy which allows service users to inform and influence the programme.
Copies of the report are available on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk
Lincolnshire CC receives a Supporting People grant from the government of£22.8m for 2004/05 to meet the cost of its housing related support services. These included supported housing for older people, homeless people, 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£486,370 to pay for the costs of administering the Supporting People programme.
A press release from Lincolnshire CC follows:
SUPPORTING PEOPLE PARTNERS 'MUST WORK TOGETHER'
A report from the Audit Commission today spotlights Lincolnshire's Supporting People programme.
Supporting People is a government initiative to fund and plan housing-related support services to a wide range of vulnerable people, such as the homeless, older people, people with learning disabilities or a mental illness.
Lincolnshire CC acts as the administering local authority (ALA) for the Supporting People programme locally, working in partnership with the following bodies:
-East Lincolnshire, West Lincolnshire and South-west Lincolnshire Primary Care Trusts
-Lincolnshire Probation Service
-City of Lincoln Council
-East Lindsey, West Lindsey, North Kesteven, South Kesteven and South Holland DCs.
Audit Commission inspectors visited Lincolnshire in May and have now published their findings.
The overall judgement is that Lincolnshire's Supporting People programme is 'poor' and has uncertain prospects for improvement. Inspectors found that current services were not offering good value for money and that partners in the programme had not been involved as fully as they needed to.
However, the report praised good working relationships with service providers and expansion of services for vulnerable people. There was also recognition for the positive response to the inspection's findings by the County Council, and steps made to introduce new ways of working.
A number of recommendations have been made to help improve the services.
Lincolnshire CC will be expected to:
-Work with all the partners involved in the programme to understand why there has not been full participation and work to resolve problems
-Draw up a timetable for the development of a five year strategy and identify the roles the various partners will have in this
-Develop a user involvement strategy which allows service users to inform and influence the programme
'Clearly the report is a disappointment, however the partnership agrees that this has been an important wake-up call for all involved in the Supporting People programme in Lincolnshire,' said Jonathan Cope, strategic co-ordinator for Supporting People Lincolnshire.
'Members of the partnership have been working since the inspection to put in place action plans to make the programme operate more effectively in the future. The report highlights that despite criticism of the programme, services in Lincolnshire have expanded since the implementation of Supporting People and provide good services for vulnerable people in the county,' he added.
Despite the report's criticisms, service providers have expressed confidence in the Lincolnshire Supporting People team, describing staff as 'helpful and supportive.'
Tim Wright, head of social inclusion at Lincolnshire CC said: 'The county council understands that areas clearly need to be developed together with the other Supporting People partners.
'However we would point to the fact that the report says: 'Supporting People has led to some better outcomes for a number of people in Lincolnshire; floating support services for young people with drug problems and chaotic lifestyles are demonstrating positive influences; some service users have been empowered by their experiences; and the successful bid for additional funding to create a home improvement agency will further increase the ability of Supporting People to provide services that can respond to the needs of vulnerable people. Under these circumstances it is difficult to see how the service overall can be judged as 'poor',' he added.
The report will be discussed by the county council's executive in due course.