Special Needs Management Allowance (SNMA) was introduced by the Department for Social Development (DSD) during the 1990s to reflect the extra management costs of providing intense housing management services for vulnerable tenants in Housing with Care (HWC) Schemes.
HWC projects were introduced with the support of DSD and Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) as an advance on the sheltered housing model. The schemes were designed to maximise the independence of vulnerable tenants combining both housing and care services. SNMA has dramatically improved the range and quality of housing support services for HWC residents.
HWC Schemes were designed to DSD standards and were 100% capital funded by the Department from the capital budget.
HWC schemes built in the 1990s were registered with the Regulation Quality Improvement Authority. This did not preclude them from accessing SNMA where the eligibility criteria were met.
NIFHA’s members are opposed to proposals by DSD to cease payment of SNMA. NIFHA has made representation on the matter to a number of Ministers and members of the Social Development Committee.
Whilst not wanting to over simplify the ground for our concerns there are a number of indisputable issues:
- The withdrawal of SNMA funding will deny almost 700 vulnerable people the dignity of living as independently as possible;
- The phasing out of SNMA will likely cause many Housing with Care schemes to close, particularly those smaller schemes in rural areas;
- The DSD’s advocated policy of de-registration is neither a viable means of sustaining these vital services nor in the best interests of the people living in the schemes.
- It remains NIFHA’s view that SNMA should be retained in its present form until such time as an independent review can be carried out to determine whether the original policy intent is being delivered.