Housing Support Services

Finance and Public Services and Communities – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 2nd December 2004.

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Photo of Christine May Christine May Labour 2:00 pm, 2nd December 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to improve housing support services. (S2O-4375)

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

Under the spending review, £1.2 billion is available over the next three years for housing support services. Local authorities are being asked to conduct local service reviews in order to identify services that do not fit with strategic priorities and gaps in provision and they are being asked to deliver improved value for money. The Scottish Social Services Council is examining the scope for introducing a training qualification for housing support staff.

Photo of Christine May Christine May Labour

Although I appreciate the work that the Executive is doing in the area, does the minister accept that the changes to the arrangements in the supporting people fund are causing difficulties for projects such as the supported housing accommodation for young people in Alexander Road in Glenrothes in my constituency? Will she outline the management arrangements that have been put in place to deal with the changes connected with the supporting people programme? Will she ensure that there is meaningful dialogue with local authorities and voluntary bodies on the matter?

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

We all recognise the challenge that always comes with redistribution and change. In its dialogue with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Scottish Executive has acknowledged some of the difficulties that have emerged around the supporting people fund. We should be clear about a number of things, however. First, £1.2 billion over three years is a significant amount of funding in anybody's language. Because it is spread over three years, it is providing stability and an opportunity for local authorities to plan ahead, as they themselves have recognised.

We have discussed with COSLA how the change will be managed. We recognise the difficulties. Transition funding and support will be given to local authorities that are in particular difficulty. In addition, there will be service reviews over the next period. In guidance, we will be asking local authorities to assess the impact of the change.

We must recognise the necessity of the change. When we are spending £1.2 billion, it is logical to ensure that there is a match between funding and need. Currently, there are some huge disparities. One local authority is spending £235 per head of population; another authority is spending £16 per head of population. It is clear that funding and need do not match at present. Moving the distribution as we have under the formula brings difficulties—we have acknowledged that. We are working with COSLA and local authorities on the matter. However, we believe that the drive underpinning the change is correct: there should not be a postcode lottery for vulnerable people across Scotland.