Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has announced an additional £10 million to support vulnerable individuals, who can be particularly at risk during the Covid-19 emergency, to continue to live independently.
The Supporting People Programme provides housing support for approximately 19,000 vulnerable individuals including: homeless people, older people, young people, and people with physical disabilities, learning disabilities and mental health issues.
The additional funds announced today will help maintain Supporting People services, which are commissioned by the Housing Executive and delivered through the public and voluntary and community sectors.
Speaking after today’s Executive meeting, Minister Hargey said: “I am extremely grateful to my Executive Colleagues for prioritising these funds for Supporting People. At a time when budgets are stretched and so many in our community are feeling the pain of this unprecedented situation, it is important that we maintain services to the most vulnerable individuals. This money will maintain the delivery of services across a very wide spectrum of organisations doing vital work.”
Given the extreme vulnerability of some service users, particularly older people and people with disabilities, some Supporting People schemes have already seen their service users or staff diagnosed with Covid-19. Many schemes are jointly-funded with Health services and the funding announced today will help Supporting People service providers continue to deliver services while coping with the impact of the pandemic.
Outlining how the money will be used, the Communities Minister said “The additional funding will be used to address significant staff shortages in the immediate term and mounting pressure in this area, if the number of Covid-19 cases continues to increase. The money will fund overtime costs for existing staff and the use of the bank or agency staffing that is necessary if services are to be maintained. Extra cleaning is also required, and the matter of a sufficient and adequate supply of PPE is being addressed.
“These are unusual times which demand actions and solutions. This funding allocation represents our commitment to the vulnerable people in Supporting People schemes, and the staff providing support to them. We support them and we are working hard to ensure their safety and wellbeing.”
Many housing support services are very similar in nature to domiciliary care services. Supporting People services are vital in protecting our health service as they maintain models of housing and living that pre-empt hospitalisation, institutional care or homelessness. The Department of Health has recently agreed to extend into Supporting People Schemes the model for testing for Covid-19 that it has applied to domiciliary care units.
Health Minister Robin Swann added: “It is well recognised that supported living services better enable people to live to their full potential and reduce the need for acute health and social care services. Their value in society cannot be underestimated.
“Officials across both departments are in regular communication to identify and address Covid-19 priorities across our Supporting People schemes. As a result my Department has now extended Covid-19 testing to all staff and residents of Supporting People schemes as well as providing a temporary supply of Personal Protective Equipment.”