Devon County Council has confirmed its partnership funding of the Wellbeing Exeter social prescribing programme will cease at the end of the month.
The decision at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting followed a June report to its health and adult care scrutiny committee which summarised feedback from a public consultation on the cuts held in March and April.
The feedback ranged widely from strong support for the programme, saying it is highly-valued and effective in helping protect vulnerable people and taking pressure off GP surgeries and hospital emergency departments, to criticisms that it is not cost-effective, is poorly implemented and may be redundant.
The county council’s decision has been made in parallel with homelessness prevention funding cut decisions that followed its January announcement that it intended to make £50 million of unspecified spending cuts in its £696 million 2023-24 budget.
Both funding cuts were already included in the county council budget passed in February.
A report recommending the Wellbeing Exeter cut by county council adult social care director Tandra Forster says the programme does not directly contribute to delivering the county council’s statutory adult social care duties.
Wellbeing Exeter aims to reduce the need for statutory care services by offering community-based health and well-being support to targeted individuals delivered by community connectors, community builders and community physical activity organisers.
The programme was originally launched in 2013 under the Integrated Care Exeter partnership before a £1.5 million government grant enabled its expansion to cover several GP practices across the city in 2015.
County council funding for the programme was subsequently provided through its adult social care budget, with the aim that the programme would identify future sources of ongoing financial support.
The city council took over programme management in 2017, with Devon County Council contributing £395,000 each year to its running costs from 2018 to 2022.
The county council funding contribution was reduced to £270,000 this financial year following withdrawal of government funding for social prescribing projects.
It will now cease at the end of this month, six months into the financial year, meaning that the county council’s 2023-24 contribution will halve to £135,000.
The city council is hoping to attract philanthropic investors to continue the programme in a new organisational form.