I am sure that I was not alone in being shocked by the news that Derby City Council is cutting its Supporting People budget by 83%. Gillian Sewell, Chief Executive of YMCA Derbyshire, which will lose 84% of its funding from the council in April, said: “The effects of the proposed cuts will be measured in a potentially disastrous rise in homelessness, rough sleeping, crime, anti-social behaviour, ruined lives and human suffering in Derby. Furthermore, many of those facing housing crisis will have to be housed in unsafe, inappropriate B&B or similar accommodation at an increased cost to the Council.”
In Brighton and Hove we have been most fortunate in having successive administrations, of all political colours, who have recognised the importance of protecting services for the most vulnerable members of our society. This has to be commended, particularly in such challenging economic times.
Some councils have gone down the road of combining all contracts into one and inviting national providers to bid in the misguided belief that the council will get better value for money. There may be some savings but the long-term cost to the community, and very often other parts of the same council, can be huge.
There is great value in services being provided by a number of agencies including client choice, different approaches that might be more effective with different clients, diverse skills, and the sustainability of organisations who are local employers.
Local providers often bring additional charitable funding to services and service development, and they often have local infrastructure that adds value that outside organisations will not have. An example is the Support for Housing service that we run in partnership with Southdown Housing Association. Because we own our head office in Brighton, we were able to convert the ground floor to a drop in at a modest cost that we were able to bear. An outside agency would not have the same commitment nor the local infrastructure to do something similar.
There is also value in investing in local providers given the local multiplier which sees money spent by local commissioner staying within the local economy. Some refer to this as “sticky money”. By investing in local services provided by local agencies, money is recycled within the local economy.
The future looks bleak for our colleagues in Derby. My thoughts are with them at this incredibly difficult time.