South Lakes Housing (SLH) is planning changes to its sheltered service to older residents in order to make it more sustainable and affordable in the future.
It has recently consulted residents living in its 12 sheltered schemes about delivering the service in a different way, possibly introducing a new ‘Independent Living Service’ to be made available to the wider community, and more controversially re-categorising some schemes and changing the use of communal lounges and other facilities.
Much of the proposed changes were received positively by residents, but SLH received significant feedback and concern about the potential removal of communal facilities. SLH has listened carefully to residents’ concerns and whilst acknowledging the benefits of the communal facilities for some, it is also clear that they are rarely used by other residents who instead would prefer a reduction in their weekly service charge. It is becoming an increasingly difficult challenge to make some sheltered schemes stack up financially. In part this is due to lessening demand from older people for some schemes and the cost of the service and amenities to residents. The cost to individuals are set to rise as these will not be covered in full if the proposed Government cap on Housing Benefit comes into effect in April 2017.
SLH has listened to the feedback from tenants and agreed to amend the proposals and hold off re-designating some sheltered schemes and removal of communal lounges – at least for now. It will carefully monitor the costs associated with the delivery of each scheme and where it becomes unviable it will then change the use of the scheme, in discussion with existing residents and in a way that is sensitive to their continued enjoyment of their home. The ‘sheltered’ service will continue to be delivered to residents, but in a different way, through two team ‘hubs’ and the improvements to the service including extended use of additional assistive technology will still be implemented. The organisation will now work up plans to introduce a new ‘independent living service’ that can be accessed by isolated residents in South Lakeland living on their own. Other plans include the extension of Extra Care services at some of the larger sheltered schemes.
Alison Kinnon, Assistant Director of Customers and Communities at SLH said “We have listened carefully to residents’ feedback and as a result of the concerns about the loss of communal lounges we have agreed not to change the use of these facilities at this time. However, in making its decision the SLH Board did acknowledge that the financial shortfall expected at some schemes will need to be addressed and we will monitor each scheme carefully. Where costs and income performance deteriorates we will need to make unpopular changes at that stage. The Board recognised the fact that many older people prefer to remain in their own homes rather than move into sheltered housing but acknowledged that the views of current sheltered housing tenants were an important consideration. Residents’ feedback has been helpful as we try and plan the future of the service and we will continue to keep residents informed”.
- South Lakes Housing (SLH) is an independent, not-for-profit housing association established in March 2012.
- SLH is the largest provider of affordable rented housing in South Lakeland, managing over 3,000 homes and has plans to build over 100 new homes over the next few years.
- SLH currently has 438 sheltered homes for older people across 12 sites within the district. There are a further 1,098 general needs tenancies where the tenant(s) are over 60 years.
- Kings Fund research shows that older people want to stay independent and live in their own homes with support rather than move into specially designed accommodation for the elderly (Walness D, (2006) Securing good care for older people, taking a long term view. Kings Fund).
- SLH is aligning its plans with the Cumbria County Council Extra Care Housing and Supported Living Strategy 2016-2025 which demonstrate the need for better services for older people.
- Government is also reviewing funding for supported housing. It has introduced a Housing Benefit cap on rents and charges in line with the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates – which is less than the current cost of providing the service. This will affect new tenants from 1st April 2017, unless the Government review agrees to exempt this type of accommodation – many housing and support providers are needing to act now to prevent significant financial losses and potential hardship on residents.