Vital help for vulnerable LGBT+ people in Wales is at risk of being slashed and must be protected, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have said.
The party is leading calls to protect the funding for the Supporting People Programme which helped over 60,000 vulnerable people in Wales last year, many of whom are LGBT+.
The Supporting People Programme provides housing-related support to help people live independently in their community, whether in their own homes or in hostels, sheltered housing or other supported accommodation. It assists a number of LGBT+ people who are homeless or at risk of domestic violence, as well as broad range of vulnerable people who may be elderly, disabled, young people leaving care, people with mental ill health or those with complex needs.
Last year, the programme received a £10million reduction in funding; a real terms cut of 8.3%. The Welsh Liberal Democrats recently led an Assembly debate that called on the Welsh Government to protect funding for the scheme in the forthcoming 2016-17 budget, but Labour Ministers refused to guarantee protection for the funding.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Equalities Minister Peter Black AM said:
"The Supporting People Programme offers invaluable support for many vulnerable LGBT+ people to live independently within their community and to end social exclusion. Having seen first-hand a number of excellent projects supported by this vital funding, I know of the transformational impact it can have on the lives of those in need.
"Last year the programme received a £10million cut in funding, which put a huge strain on the delivery of services. Every £1 spent on this programme can save up to £2.30 for the public purse, easing pressure on health and social services by preventing homelessness, aiding recovery and reducing reliance on hospitalisation.
"However, it’s not just about the financial impact. So many of those that benefit from this programme are truly inspirational, overcoming some of the most difficult times in their lives and going on to achieve success and rebuild a better future. That’s why it’s so disappointing that Labour Ministers aren’t guaranteeing that they’ll protect this funding, so that it can continue to play a vital role in supporting those most in need.
"I urge anyone who cares about protecting this vital funding to join our campaign at www.welshlibdems.wales/supportingpeople."
Before the Welsh Liberal Democrats’ Assembly debate, Auriol Miller, Director of Cymorth Cymru, said:
"I’m really pleased to see the Welsh Liberal Democrats taking this opportunity to raise awareness of the Supporting People Programme and the many benefits it brings to people and communities across Wales. The programme plays a key role in both preventing homelessness and enabling some of the most marginalised and vulnerable people to live independently in their own homes.
"Supporting People has always enjoyed strong cross-party support across the Assembly and, with difficult budgetary decisions on the horizon, we hope that this support can continue for what really is a vital programme."
Stuart Ropke, Chief Executive of Community Housing Cymru, added:
"The Supporting People Programme has been a vital lifeline for the 60,000 people it has supported over the last year. The programme prevents homelessness, and reduces pressure on health, social services and criminal justice budgets.
"We welcome the Welsh Liberal Democrats’ debate raising this issue, and call on all parties in the Senedd to continue the strong cross-party support for this essential programme."