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TWO STARS FOR HOUSING SUPPORT AFTER£5M GRANT

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The delivery of the£5.6 million Supporting People programme provided by Barnsley MBC is 'good' and has 'promising ...
The delivery of the£5.6 million Supporting People programme provided by Barnsley MBC is 'good' and has 'promising prospects' to improve, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

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 with£1.72 billion being spent on the services across England in this financial year.

The Audit Commission, in partnership with inspectors from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation and the Commission for Social Care Inspection gave the service two stars, on a scale of zero to three, because it is making good progress in implementing the programme and has robust plans and the capacity to deliver further improvements to meet the needs of vulnerable people in Barnsley.

Graeme Foster, lead housing inspector at the Audit Commission, said: 'Barnsley is making good progress in its delivery of the programme. The council has particularly been effective in carrying out service reviews and identifying improvements to raise the standard of services. It has also implemented a robust value for money framework to scrutinise costs and eligibility, which has crucially resulted in savings for investment in additional services to extend the capacity of the programme.

'There are some areas that require further development, particularly the involvement of service users, carers and advocates in the programme and completing needs assessments for some service users, including vulnerable people from black and minority ethnic communities.'

The inspectors found that:

. Service reviews result in high levels of remodelling and decommissioning and savings are reinvested to meet aims and objectives set out in the five year strategy.

. Ineligible services have been identified and retraction plans are in place.

. The five year strategy is comprehensive and partners have signed up to priorities agreed for the programme.

. A range of housing related support services are available to assist service users to live independently.

. Cross authority working is well established, providing opportunities for councils to share best practice and learning, and develop new initiatives.

To help the service improve further, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:

. Improving arrangements to involve carers, advocates and service users in the programme.

. Identifying the housing related support needs of all service user groups and updating existing needs assessments.

. Assessing outcomes of the Supporting People programme, particularly for service users.

. Considering equality and diversity within all aspects of programme development and service delivery.

. Improving governance arrangements by clearly defining the role of the core strategy group.

Barnsley received a Supporting People grant of£5,634,085 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£220,624 to pay for the costs of administering the Supporting People Programme.

Copies of the report are available from Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council or on the Audit Commission website.

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