O Jackson provided the Supported Housing Service Update and questions arising were as follows.
Cllr Bassadone asked about the 400 people on the register who are over 60 not actively bidding and wondered if this was because they were waiting for a two bedroom properties or a specific property, so what is the under-occupation of our EPD’s at the present time. N Beresford confirmed there are 6,500 people on the housing register and we’ve just had the annual report, so across the housing register last year only 829, across all client groups bid for accommodation, which means nearly 90% aren’t actively bidding. There is a piece of work we need to do to identify whether or not there is a genuine housing need and to understand why people aren’t bidding for accommodation. We don’t believe that it’s in respect of people trying to target two bedroom accommodation, all of those on the housing register predominantly have a need for one bedroom sheltered accommodation. There are some who require two bedroom accommodation due to medical needs, but they are identified through adaptations process.
Cllr Bassadone asked what the current percentage of EPD’s are vacant. N Beresford will need to provide that information as she doesn’t have that currently. There is a weekly cycle for advertising and she will email you the figure, but it’s relatively low in respect of stock in comparison to the numbers waiting for accommodation.
Action: N Beresford
Cllr Hollinghurst said that over 6,000 people are on the housing register and 90% of them are not actively looking at any one time for a property, there could be very many reasons for this of course, if someone is in tied accommodation or it’s likely in the medium to long term to come to an end, they would perhaps early on the tenancy put their names down on the waiting list. N Beresford advised that anyone who is currently active on the housing register can only be active if they have an identified housing need, so if they have accommodation that’s available for their continued occupation, they wouldn’t be deemed to have a housing need, so couldn’t be active on our register, so their application would be rejected. Currently we have 6,500 people on the register all with an identified need, that could be under-occupation, overcrowding, a medical or mobility need to move to an alternative property. Everyone who is currently active has an application that’s been assessed against the Policy and has a need to move, but of that there is a significant proportion that are not proactively taking steps to move from their current home.
Cllr Hollinghurst asked if there is anything we do for people in tied accommodation. N Beresford confirmed that if someone is living in tied accommodation and they are able to continue to live there and it’s suitable, but if they are given notice to leave that accommodation, then yes we would support them to look at alternative accommodation. Social housing or private sector housing but that would be dependent on the identified housing need. Ultimately if they have a high level of priority due to medical social need or other dependent children then they would be high priority, but if we are talking about a single person with no level of vulnerability then our support would be limited.
Cllr England said that he thought O Jackson has spoken thoughtfully and with evident care and concern for older people, he has worked in that industry and knows what you were saying and the way you put it was striking. Cllr England asked if you are able to approach the question of trying to encourage people to make that move in a positive socially aware/orientated way, in his experience there are people who are quite social people and for them supported housing can be fantastic because you are guaranteed to have people around that will be glad you’re there, if you are a talker and you can persuade those people, almost as a community service, or something they might feel that they can do for their community to actually move into one of those schemes. I know there is probably a limited number of those people, but sometimes they can bring friends with them. O Jackson replied that some of the schemes are really vibrant, others less so, it really depends on whose living there at the time, we do actively encourage people that do live in the wider community to engage and play a role in the schemes. Quite often tenants living outside of schemes will come to those where facilities are available. O Jackson added that a lot of it will depend on us promoting the service and dispelling some of the myths and stigma that goes with it. We hear comments such as what time do they lock the doors at the schemes and that’s a comment we’ve heard a number of times. We’ve worked with some of Natasha’s team to look at ways of publicising and marketing.
Cllr England mentioned that sometimes the problem is with the stock of housing, it’s not that it’s just unpopular, but it’s actually no longer fit for purpose, particularly tends to be with the first floor flats, because they are not accessible for some people and other people are concerned about the ground floor because they think it’s going to be less safe. This is all obvious stuff and you’ll be on top of this, it’s sometimes important to realise that it’s not that it’s unpopular and it’s not getting bids, there’s a reason behind it.
Cllr Griffiths mentioned the point about the wider community being encouraged to come in to our schemes, like an awayday so that they get involved and that gets over those barriers of people not understanding what our EPD’s are about. It also breaks down isolation and that is one of the biggest issues for elderly people in the community in that their partner dies and they become introvert and I think that is the best way that we can break it down. What I’m basically saying is, if any of you come across residents in your area, they don’t have to be tenants, I think supported housing schemes can do more that just home people, they can reduce the isolation and then the general community coming in and out, that will dispel the myths a lot quicker than us putting a poster up. If a conversation goes on between those people, then families will learn and the whole conversation will become a lot easier and it won’t feel like your pushing a stone up the hill. To reiterate if you are out there and you come across someone who would benefit from an introduction to one of the schemes, please contact Oli.
N Beresford advised that there is a new part-time post starting in the service in November for Supported Housing Needs Officer, we are working really closely with Ollie’s team to market sheltered housing stock and in particular identify people who are on the mutual exchange list who may be wishing to downsize or move to alternative housing and try and match them with people who are under-occupying and trying to facilitate moves that way and they shall also be doing some assisted bidding, the benefit of this postholder is they have a background in working in the sheltered housing service, so they understand the schemes and ways of working and will be able to work really closely with the team and hopefully we will see an increased take up.
Cllr Stevens asked where the review will be looking at alternative uses, does this mean something like Farm Place which was redeveloped a few years ago, he understands this was a scheme that was difficult to let and the Borough made the decision to redevelop it, it now looks very attractive and there are lots of different types there, not just the elderly. O Jackson advised that we’ve highlighted some properties that we don’t feel are suitable for older people, that can be a number of problems, access to the property, where it’s positioned geographically and the provision of services close by, so we’ve reviewed all of our dispersed housing stock and there a number that we don’t feel are suitable for older people going forward. We need to marry up where there is less demand, so the conversation about what we do with those properties needs to take place. The emphasis is about a planned approach, previously it’s been adhoc with one property in a block of four being changed to general needs which creates issues with managing those properties. We are looking at if they are suitable for older people as they are now and will they be in the short term and long term and the conversations about what’s the best use for them.
Cllr Adeleke mentioned that most of the accommodation is over 50 years old and we have to take a conscious look at the whole, maybe reduce the number, recommend improvements and scatter them about so reduce the number but make them more attractive. O Jackson said we are looking at all those factors and long term viability, it’s a challenge because everyone recognises that the population is getting older and we would assume that the demand for supported housing would increase to reflect that. Certainly any decisions about the long term viability will be considered. The building itself we will look at how it can be adapted, is it relatively low investment to get it to where people need it to be. It may be the view that some of it may not be fit for purpose anymore, but there is a number of steps that need to be taken before we come to any conclusions.
Cllr Griffiths said that she will be 60 soon and she certainly doesn’t feel ready for an EPD, should we also be looking at the age of our EPD’s, should be move it in line with getting official retirement pension. It’s currently 60 or 55 if you are a vulnerable adult, should we look at that. The Chairman mentioned that we’d previously reduced the age. N Beresford confirmed that the age criteria is reduced where there is a medical vulnerability but we still get people in their 40s saying they want sheltered housing, it’s one of the things Oli is involved in key workstream review with Strategic Housing team and to look at increasing the income threshold on the allocations policy.
Cllr Bassadone commented that she reads the obituaries in the daily telegraph and most of the people who die in their 80’s and 90’s, a larger percentage of them living alone at home.