Somerset County Council’s Cabinet will discuss proposals this Wednesday that could see the authority continue to spend nearly £2m on housing related support while making vital savings to help balance its budget.
The Pathways for Adults (P4A) programme helps people who would otherwise be homeless or at risk of homelessness. District councils have a statutory responsibility to arrange accommodation for people they accept as homeless. The County Council funds staff to help people develop the skills needed to secure and maintain tenancies, for example teaching them household budgeting skills.
Under the proposals the County Council would continue to put £1.52m into housing support and outreach for people with mental health issues. The Council would also contribute £309,000 towards support to lessen the impact of it not renewing contracts for non-statutory services.
The changes would save the authority £879,000 net a year, at a time when it needs to bridge a budget gap of around £27m to balance its 2016/17 budget in the face of reduced funding and rising demand for services.
The Council’s Cabinet will discuss the proposals on Wednesday 4 November. Similar plans went to February’s Cabinet meeting where it decided to give all partners, including district councils, more time to explore alternative funding and ways to limit the impact.
Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care services, Councillor William Wallace, said: “These proposals are not made lightly and we were clear when we said substantial savings needed to be found in this area for the coming financial year. There have been numerous meetings with partners including district councils but nothing firm has been agreed.
“We understand its value, but the County Council is not funded for this support or required to provide it. Many other county councils have ceased funding similar services and this is just the kind of incredibly difficult decision we have to consider in the current financial climate. We will still be spending around £1.52m on housing related services and making more than £300,000 available to keep some of the other support going.”
The County Council has a legal – statutory – responsibility to provide this support for people with mental health conditions, but not the other elements of the P4A programme supporting people with a history of offending or who are deemed at risk of homelessness. The proposals being considered would see the County Council not renew its contracts for these other elements of P4A support when they come to an end in April 2016.
It would, however, contribute £309,000 towards, and be part of, a proposed multi-agency partnership tasked with supporting people affected by the change. The Council would also offer social care assessments and agree support packages for people with eligible needs.
Like many local authorities, Somerset faces major challenges in balancing its budget from 2016/17 and beyond. Between 2014/15 and 2019/20 its direct funding from central Government is expected to have fallen by around £63m against its current annual budget of around £315m. At the same time, inflation is pushing up costs while demand for services, particularly social care services, is increasing as Somerset’s population grows and becomes more elderly.