Supported housing was one of the unsung successes of the 1990s.
Homeless young people, alcoholic ex servicemen (mainly), people with mental health problems, the elderly and disabled benefited from a secure home and the support needed to live fruitful lives.
As a now-retired local government inspector, it was a privilege to see how innovative solutions and simply a decent home could make a difference to the lives of thousands throughout the country. Back in the 1990s my excellent housing team was able to establish women’s refuges, foyers for young people and many other such services in East Hampshire, thanks to a local authority and county council that understood that a society is judged by how it looks after its most vulnerable citizens.
The proposal by West Sussex to cut the whole of its supporting people budget is therefore one which appals me. Government research has shown that for every pound spent on support seven pounds is saved in costs to the health service, in reduced levels of crime and in many other ways.
The Prime Minister’s commitment to mental health services and reducing the explosion in rough sleeping since 2008 is cynically empty of any meaning if Supporting People authorities are faced with a choice of bankruptcy or cuts in essential services.
If this decision is not reversed vulnerable people will feel the pain first – in rough sleeping, illness, suicides and premature deaths. Society – if it still exists in West Sussex – will see it in a continued growth in rough sleeping, increased levels of violent crime and bigger demands on an already overburdened health service.