The aim of the Supporting People programme is to establish a strategic, integrated policy and funding framework delivered locally in response to identified local needs, deliver good quality services focused on the needs of users and, enable vulnerable people to live independently in the community, in all types of accommodation and tenure. It is a United Kingdom wide programme.


Supporting People is the policy and funding framework for housing support services. The programme was introduced in April 2003 under the Housing Support Services (2002 Order) (Commencement) Order (Northern Ireland) 2003 and the Housing Support Services Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003.

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive is responsible for approval for the commissioning of housing support services that meet strategic need identified by a commissioning body.

The commissioning body (a partnership of local housing, social care, health and probation statutory services) plays a key role in advising and approving Supporting People services. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive Board makes the final decision on which services will be approved for funding.

Housing support services are practical services that assist people to maintain independent living in the community. Support can take a number of different forms. It could include general counselling and advice, help with budgeting, shopping, dealing with issues around home safety or assistance with administrative affairs.

Supporting People is a wide and varied programme that reaches out to

  • people who have been homeless or a rough sleeper
  • ex-offenders and people at risk of offending and imprisonment
  • people with a physical or sensory disability
  • people at risk of domestic violence
  • people with alcohol and drug problems
  • teenage parents
  • elderly people
  • young people at risk
  • people with learning difficulties
  • travellers
  • homeless families with support needs
  • migrant Workers

For more information on Supporting People visit the NIHE website

Review of Supporting People

A Review of the Supporting People Programme has been completed by this Department, working collaboratively with other government departments, Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) and with input from Department of Justice(DOJ) , the Committee Representing Interests of Supporting People Providers (CRISPP) and the wider Supporting People sector.

The Terms of Reference for the Review and the evidence papers used are also published.


The Housing Executive has published its Homelessness Strategy for 2017- 22: Ending Homelessness Together.

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive has statutory responsibility for responding to homelessness. The Housing Executive’s strategic approach to dealing with Homelessness is the current ‘Ending Homelessness Together – the Homelessness Strategy for Northern Ireland 2017-22’ which has an overall vision of eliminating long term homelessness and rough sleeping and has at its core prevention and early intervention.
The Housing Executive developed its new Homelessness Strategy in partnership with the Department, relevant statutory agencies and voluntary and community sector organisations and published this in April 2017. The new Strategy aims to ensure a cross departmental and inter agency approach to ending homelessness.

Homelessness is a complex issue. A physical home, whilst incredibly important, will not on its own, address a homelessness situation.  Homelessness individuals and households or those vulnerable to homelessness, quite often have underlying issues and/or complex needs, and require support to maintain their health, their home and their employment. For this reason the Department has taken the lead, working with our partners in government, on an Inter-Departmental Homelessness Action plan”. The plan focuses on addressing gaps in those non-accommodation services that are likely to have the most impact on the lives of people who are homeless and those who are most at risk of homelessness, such as health and education services, support for those leaving places of care and support services for those who are experiencing family or domestic issues. The plan will complement the NI Housing Executive’s Homelessness Strategy 2017 – 2022.

Homelessness Strategy Steering Group

The Department Chairs this steering group comprising of officials from a number of Departments and representatives of the statutory agencies and the voluntary sector continues to consider how Government departments and other relevant agencies can best work together to ensure:

  • that the risk of homelessness is reduced
  • that the full range of appropriate services is available to those who find themselves homeless, so that they can make the choices required to play a full part in society
  • that the Housing Executive can fully implement the objectives set out in its Homelessness strategy 2017-22
  • Homelessness Strategy


The policy objective is to improve the living conditions for travellers in Northern Ireland.

Here you will find information on the department's responsibilities, policies and actions in relation to travellers in Northern Ireland including accommodation and the co-operation policy.

Travellers' accommodation

The Department is involved with the Housing Executive (NIHE) and registered housing associations in the provision of accommodation for travellers.

Following the transfer of responsibility for traveller specific accommodation from district councils, NIHE carried out a comprehensive assessment of the accommodation needs of all travellers in Northern Ireland.

This review indicated that the majority of travellers wish to live in ‘settled’ accommodation either in existing social housing estates or specific ‘group housing’ schemes which cater for travellers’ desire to reside in extended family groupings.

As a result NIHE has drawn up and submitted to the department, a programme of traveller specific schemes to cater for this need. These schemes will be delivered by housing associations. Group housing is a relatively recent idea and it was decided to progress on the basis of four pilot housing schemes:

  • Tattykeel - Omagh (complete)
  • Hillhead Road – Castledawson (complete)
  • Glen Road – West Belfast
  • Monagh Road – West Belfast

A number of travellers also indicated a desire to live on serviced sites, which provide facilities for travellers residing in static ‘mobile home’ type accommodation. There are currently five occupied serviced sites in Northern Ireland and the NIHE is in the process of upgrading these. Some Travellers wish to remain nomadic and their needs will be provided through ‘transit sites’.

There are currently no transit sites in Northern Ireland and the NIHE is currently working in conjunction with district councils, traveller representative groups and travellers to determine the specific need for such sites and where these should be located.

Co-operation policy

It is important to stress that the policy that allows travellers to camp on a temporary basis is not a substitute for permanent or transit site provision.
The policy is still seen, therefore, as a humane requirement and necessary addition to adequate permanent provision.

Once the policy is in place travellers should be allowed to remain on the land subject to the following conditions:

  • occupation does not constitute a measurable public health hazard or cause pollution to water supplies. District councils should liaise with the landowner, support groups and traveller families to ensure services (for example refuse collection) are in place to eliminate any public health hazard
  • occupation does not create a traffic hazard
  • occupation does not create a right to long-term use of the site. The situation should be reviewed at regular intervals not exceeding three months
  • there is no current or immediate use for the land
  • the travellers behave in a reasonable and orderly manner

It is recognised that in exceptional cases there could be circumstances attached to a particular occupancy, which would require a different approach.

Related to Supporting People

Access to information

How to request information from the Department for Communities including Freedom of Information (FOI) and the use of our Publication Scheme.

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