08 October 2004
An east London borough under fire from the government for its high costs is failing to target housing support services at the most vulnerable people, auditors said this week.
An Audit Commission evaluation of the London Borough of Newham's £11.2m Supporting People programme found that, although the level of services across the borough was below the national average, the weekly cost was higher than the average for both London and England as a whole.
In April, Newham was one of 19 authorities singled out by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for the high cost of housing support services.
The Audit Commission's report, published on October 7, identified gaps in services for some minority groups, such as travellers. The council had also failed to put in place methods to obtain information on the housing support needs of offenders and drug users.
Inspectors noted that although some new services had been developed, these had not been matched to levels of deprivation and need in the borough. The service was awarded just one star out of a possible three.
Chief housing inspector Roy Irwin said: 'The core strategy group and the commissioning body need to take a far greater role in shaping the future of the Supporting People programme in Newham.'
The commission is recommending that Newham adopts a more rigorous approach to the assessment of value for money rates charged by providers.
The Supporting People programme has been dogged by cost-related controversy. Ministers slashed funding by £105m after an independent review concluded it was not delivering value for money.