Tenants face uncertainty as Scope is accused of money-grabbing

In late January the 12 residents of Cyncoed Flats – a
Cardiff sheltered housing scheme run by disability charity Scope
– were told the new homes they were supposed to be moving
into would not be built.

While disappointing, this news was nothing compared with the
bombshell that followed. The flats, where some of the residents had
lived for more than 30 years, would shut in October and they would
have to be found new homes.

“It was a bolt from the blue and left us stunned,” says
resident Mary Lewis. “We went to the pub and had several
drinks – we couldn’t believe it.”

Last year, Scope agreed to sell a plot of land next to the flats to
developers that wanted to build a retirement village. Part of the
deal was for new flats for the 12 supported housing tenants who
have cerebral palsy.

But in January, Scope changed its stance on residential schemes,
such as the one at Cyncoed. It deemed it should no longer invest in
what it called institutional care because it
“disempowered” people, and decided to sell the flats as

The Cyncoed tenants do not believe they have been disempowered. One
of them, Damon McCarthy, says: “We haven’t lived in a
culture of institutionalism – we could come and go as we
liked. We lived independently.”

Critics say Scope’s decision is a purely financial one, based
on the fact that selling the extra land would help plug a £5m
hole in its accounts. Cyncoed is one of the most expensive areas in
the Welsh capital and the total sale is netting £2.25m.

Regardless of the reasons behind the decision, the closure appears
to have damaged Scope’s standing and has left many of the
residents facing an uncertain future.

Despite the efforts of the charity, local authorities and
campaigners to find suitable alternatives, two residents have yet
to be found permanent accommodation, while three others face a
lengthy spell in temporary placements because of delays in adapting
their new homes.

The delays have prompted residents’ campaigners to warn Scope
they will refuse to leave the flats when next month’s
deadline passes.

McCarthy’s mother, Anne, says: “They can’t just
go anywhere. If they haven’t got places with proper
facilities offered to them we intend to stay. Scope can get
penalties if we don’t move on.”

McCarthy and Julia Shore have been offered places where they can
live independently, but the adaptation work has yet to begin, while
some of the work on Mary Lewis’s new home has been carried
out incorrectly.

However, things look even worse for Brian Byfield and Alan Symonds.
They have known each other for 26 years and want to continue living
together independently in a new permanent home in Cardiff, but have
not been offered one.

“We want to stay in Cardiff and together,” says
Byfield. “Cardiff Council said to me that if it had known
about the plans to close Cyncoed earlier it could have offered us

He is worried he could be forced to go back to Lewisham in London,
his placing authority where he used to live, if an alternative
cannot be found in Cardiff.

“I have been told I will be put on the Lewisham housing list
but I don’t want to go back there,” he says.
“I’ve been offered a place in a respite centre in
Porthcawl but it would mean I’d have to give up my job in the
community centre answering phones and taking messages.”

Symonds says he has been offered a place in an old people’s
home, but the rooms were so small it was difficult to turn a

Campaigner Colin Gent says: “Alan and Brian have been put
through a lot of anxiety and Scope has left them hanging in limbo
for months.

“We’re fighting a rearguard action to make sure the
people who want to stay in Cardiff will do so. We need to find a
property and get it developed. Whatever happens it looks like Alan
and Brian will have months in temporary accommodation.”

The remaining seven tenants have been found places but Anne
McCarthy is not convinced their needs have been listened to.
“Some people here can articulate their needs but others
can’t,” she says. “We’ll never know how
many of the others would have liked to stay in Cardiff.

“We’ve acted as advocates [for those who could
articulate their needs] but when we tried to do the same for the
others Scope has been obstructive and said the people’s
families weren’t happy for us to be involved, even though
some of them haven’t seen their families for years. A lot of
service users have found members of the Scope management team

Scope allocated an independent advocate to work 15 hours a week to
help the residents find new accommodation. But Gent says this was
inadequate: “The advocate’s job is not to satisfy the
practical needs of the service users but to advise them on whether
to take up a particular option. They haven’t got any options
to choose from.”

Scope denies any charges of intimidation or obstruction. A
spokesperson says: “We acknowledge that this is a difficult
time for all involved but we have supported all the residents
through these changes and wholeheartedly refute this claim. We have
used Scope’s website forum to issue updates and answer
e-mails, and have answered letters from 450 enquirers.

“We have held one-to-one meetings with service users and each
resident has been offered the use of an independent advocate paid
for by Scope but entirely unconnected to the organisation. Indeed,
an independent advocate continues to work on site at the moment and
has been well-received by the residents themselves and their

Gent does have praise, though, for Cardiff Council’s

The council says it has worked with other authorities and the
voluntary sector to find permanent accommodation for the tenants,
but has found this to be difficult.

A spokesperson says: “This is because of the nature of the
needs of the individuals concerned and a lack of suitable
accommodation in the Cardiff area.”

Cardiff Central Welsh assembly member Jenny Randerson is also
backing the council’s efforts. She says: “This council
had to take on the funding of several new people that it
didn’t have before at an additional cost. Accommodation for
disabled people is gravely
lacking and you need to go through a lot of hoops to get housing
adapted. To do it in six months is a ridiculous time

Randerson is highly critical of Scope’s motives for the sale
and, along with local MP Jenny Willott, intends to lobby the
government for legal changes that will prevent a similar situation
happening again.

Randerson says: “The tenants have no rights and this case
highlights the failings in the current law. There should be a legal
obligation on organisations providing accommodation to offer
acceptable alternatives.”

However, any changes will be too late for the Cyncoed

“We’ll miss each other and the wider community,”
says McCarthy. “We’re like an extended family and
we’ve had thousands of letters of support from neighbours and
local organisations.”

A tainted reputation
While Scope argues that closing Cyncoed Flats is for the
greater good of the disability rights movement, some believe the
decision will taint the organisation for good.

“We know it has lost significant donations. There is at least
one organisation in Cardiff that has annually made a significant
donation to Scope that is not going to anymore,” says Welsh
assembly member Jenny Randerson.

“The general community is very annoyed about it and Scope got
little response from the Cyncoed area when it sent bags around to
collect clothes. I don’t think there’s anything Scope
can do to repair its tattered image.”

Campaigner Colin Gent says many people were “appalled”
by Scope’s behaviour. “I have a friend who’s
resigned her membership and I think many others have done the

One of those people is Cyncoed tenant Mary Lewis: “My
£10 Scope membership form came through the post the other day
so I phoned up and asked them to revoke it.”

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