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Voluntary Sector leaders express concerns over funding cuts to services for vulnerable people

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On Monday 23rd January Norfolk County Council's Adult Social Services Committee approved proposals to cut funding to services that provide support for vulnerable adults.  The vote was split, but the proposals were carried by the casting vote vote of the Chairman, Bill Borrett.  

Norfolk’s Voluntary Sector leaders are expressing concern about the impact of Norfolk County Council’s proposals for severe cuts to services for people in need of housing support, and also plans to make significant cuts to advice provision.

Sector Leadership Group chair and Chief Executive of Community Action Norfolk, Jon Clemo, says: “The proposals before the Adult Social Care Committee to reduce housing related support from £10 million to £4.7 million, and advice provision from £1.7 million to £1.45, million are inconsistent with County strategy and significantly harmful to the people of Norfolk, particularly some of our most vulnerable residents. We recognise that we are in challenging times and it is important to work together to do the best for the people and communities of Norfolk.”

The Voluntary Sector Leadership Group (SLG)’s membership is drawn from key parts of the sector. It supports closer working on the key challenges between organisations. The group cites how housing support and advice are critical parts of preventing ill health and harm.

Graham Creelman, chair of the Norfolk Older Peoples’ Strategic Partnership and SLG member said: “These services help some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, particularly older people, to stay living independently for longer.   To enable independent living is a key part of the Partnership’s strategy. It’s also a key element of both the Council’s own strategic direction, and of the emerging joint strategy of health and social care in the county.  It would be a tragedy if these are cut because it is non-statutory spending.”

The Sector Leadership Group is a strong supporter of a prevention-based approach as better for people, and also saving money in the long run. The group also cites strong evidence that these are services that work. A Department of Communities and Local Government research report into the value of housing related support overall found that it delivered £2.13 of benefit from every £1 spent.

“There is recognition that some of the benefits from these services are not just to Norfolk County Council and we have heard arguments it should therefore not be their responsibility to fund them” explained Mr Creelman. “However, NCC has repeatedly talked about the need for a ‘one public service’ approach and it is an important test of their credibility that they are able to turn the rhetoric into reality.”

Concerns were also raised by the group about suggestions that a significant reduction in investment can result in the same level of activity.

“This is incredibly disrespectful to the hard-working highly professional staff and volunteers who care passionately about their clients. Services can be improved and made more efficient but the idea of being able to continuously deliver more for less is a fallacy. These are not small reductions or savings as a result of services being redesigned. It is a wholesale gutting of services followed by an attempt to make the best of what is left.”

Laura Bloomfield, Baseline Manager at Future Projects and SLG member added “The voluntary and community sector is working hard to deliver services to support people throughout Norfolk, and as result of these proposed cuts those services are likely to be severely impacted either directly or indirectly through reductions in funding.  Many organisations are already overstretched and further removal of funding or other services to support vulnerable people and their communities will undoubtedly apply additional pressure which may cause the system to break or more people to fall through the gaps in services.”

The Group, however, emphasised the desire to work with Norfolk County Council to find solutions.“We know these are difficult decisions for the Norfolk County Council to make.” said Mr Clemo, “The voluntary sector is built around helping people and we want to work with Norfolk County Council to develop solutions but such sharp cuts to these key prevention services is not the way ahead.” 

Attached is a document with two case studies of individuals who’ve experienced very positive outcomes – they represent the kind of personal successes that it’s felt could be at risk without proper funding support in the future.

Background information

The Sector Leadership Group has been established to provide a mechanism for the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector to engage in wider leadership conversations and further the sector’s collective agenda. This leadership operates across local systems rather than within institutions. Much sector leadership work focuses on trying to achieve the two key priorities of integration and prevention. 

Research into the financial benefits of the Supporting People Programme, 2009 Department of Communities and Local Government can be found by clicking here

The Adult Social Services Committee paper can be found by clicking here.