Has renewal taken off?

Building new houses is easy to achieve but regeneration’s
contribution to ending social exclusion is less clear cut. Peter
Fletcher reports on the findings of a national study.

Are the needs of vulnerable people being taken into account in
the burgeoning business of regeneration planning, and how much
social services input is there in renewal programmes? These were
the questions that led to a national study1 funded by
the Housing Corporation and carried out over about a year by the
Nuffield Institute for Health and Peter Fletcher Associates.

The results demonstrate that although there were some excellent
one-off initiatives, few areas, whether urban or rural, had any
strategic approach linking the housing, care and support aspects of
community care into regeneration planning.

Researchers visited a number of regeneration and renewal
initiatives across four Housing Corporation regions – London, East,
North East, and North West. They found that people with care and
support needs were often hidden from, and therefore lost in, the
planning process. Those responsible for planning regeneration
initiatives had a narrow view of the community with which they were
consulting. Young people’s views were frequently not sought or
listened to. Nor, often, were those of older people, even where
there were isolated or vulnerable groups. Even less account was
taken of people with low-level but often multiple needs, for
example, people with mental health problems who did not fit a
formal label and were, therefore, not seen as eligible for help.
This is despite the fact that they may also have a pattern of
housing instability because of difficulties in maintaining a home.
There were some examples of the needs of ethnic minority groups
being planned for, but this was by no means the norm.

The concerns that residents of many regeneration areas have
about neighbour nuisance from anti-social tenants, and community
safety, are well documented. Control mechanisms have been
introduced such as probationary tenancies, and some areas have
adopted a lettings strategy that has exclusion criteria to restrict
the type of new lettings that can be made. A key aspect of the
findings was that local people living in regeneration areas were
generally tolerant of vulnerable people being housed. Although
there was concern about curbing or controlling the behaviour of
anti-social tenants, local residents did not automatically put
people with community care needs in the same category. This not
only applied to care groups such as older people, but also to
groups with a more negative media profile such as people with
mental health problems. There was no desire to exclude a person
with a mental health problem simply because of that problem. What
local people wanted, and indeed expected, was that vulnerable
people received appropriate housing and support so that other
people could live in peace and quiet around them.

In some areas local people wanted to be actively involved in
planning how the housing and support needs of vulnerable local
people would be met. In these areas the preference was for normal
housing models that blended into the landscape rather than
segregation into specialist schemes. In other areas community
organisations wished to play an active “good neighbour role in
providing support services to vulnerable people”. Sometimes this
evolved into a dynamic local voluntary sector. In other places
volunteer work had extended to job creation through formal paid
care and support roles. A small number of areas were considering
establishing local care companies as community businesses.

There was consistent feedback that social services were marginal
to the regeneration process, despite their lead responsibility for
planning to meet the community care needs of their populations.
They were seen to have lost their community focus for two main
reasons. Firstly, social services had not grasped a strategic role
within the council around the regeneration agenda. This applied as
much to unitary authorities as to shire counties. The exceptions to
this were around anti-poverty and community safety strategies,
which were elements of the community care as well as regeneration
agendas in a number of authorities. Secondly, the research found a
fundamentally different approach between community care and
regeneration planning. Regeneration is being tackled on a
neighbourhood or locality basis. In contrast, the planning
framework for community care has tended to have an individual or
client group, rather than a community or local geographical focus.
This contributed to a lack of connection or joined-up thinking.

Social services information is rarely collected at a
neighbourhood or estate level as the basis for forward planning. In
addition, the community development role of social services
departments, so evident in the 1970s, appeared to have virtually
disappeared or moved to other departments within the local
authority. Furthermore, the focus, until recently, on meeting high
care needs at the expense of early intervention and prevention
meant that social services were seen to have lost contact with
people with lower level support needs.

We did, however, find examples where social services were
involved as partners in regeneration planning. On the Roundshaw
estate in the London Borough of Sutton, the housing division of the
joint housing and social services department was concerned about
the number of vulnerable people on the estate who were not
supported by social services. The council set up a supported
housing strategy sub-group to bring the key players together,
including social services, to focus on housing and community care
needs. The aim was to develop a supported housing strategy as part
of the estate’s regeneration plan.

In a number of areas the housing organisations responsible for
managing the housing in the area felt landed with the
responsibility of supporting vulnerable residents without, as they
perceived it, effective support from social services and health
services. Four key issues emerged in relation to joint working at a
local level.

  • Confidentiality and information sharing.
  • Risk assessment and identification of tenancy support needs
    when letting or moving home.
  • Fast-track assessment for homeless people who may pose a risk
    to the community.
  • Continuous tenancy liaison.

In some areas joint training was being used as a way of
developing a common culture and to build joint working. In Ipswich,
joint training was provided for housing and social services staff
focusing on supporting in ordinary housing people who misuse

Some areas were moving from mapping need on a client group or
individual basis towards locality needs-mapping models. The
Liverpool Housing Action Trust and the Roundshaw Estate in Sutton
provide examples of this. In both areas the housing and support
needs of vulnerable people with community care and health needs
were mapped, as part of the planning process.

However, evidence from the fieldwork indicated that most
regeneration areas did not include housing, care and support as a
core part of the commissioning process. Part of this was the
marginalisation of social services from the regeneration process.
However, local authority competition rules were also a factor. The
need for housing and support was rarely an explicit part of the
core regeneration agenda or included in the competition bid
criteria. And the tight timescale for bidding often militated
against registered social landlords talking to social services to
identify the need for housing and support.

The national policy agenda is encouraging health and social
services to take a broader approach around promoting health and
well-being to identifiable communities. Prevention is back on the
policy agenda. Regeneration has more of a social dimension, and
there is an increased focus on integrated approaches. However, the
counter-balancing trend in the national strategy for neighbourhood
renewal to exclude problem tenants holds dangers for vulnerable
people with community care needs. The report highlights the need
for social services and health colleagues to make regeneration a
more central part of their agendas, and sets down an action agenda
for linking housing and community care into regeneration planning
at both local and national levels.

1 Peter Fletcher Associates and the Nuffield
Institute for Health, Social Inclusion for Vulnerable People
2000: Linking Regeneration and Community Care
, Pavilion
Publishing, 2000. Available at 0113 233 6357, priced £15.

Peter Fletcher is an independent social policy
consultant and is visiting fellow at the Nuffield Institute for

Local action

The report recommends:

  • Integrated vision and strategy for regeneration and community
    care at a local level.
  • Neighbourhood co-ordination and local information sharing to
    ensure multi-agency approach.
  • Involving the community as partners.
  • Mapping housing, care and support needs and commissioning
    services at a locality level.
  • Establish register of vulnerable tenants and overall service
    and resource plan to meet their housing and support needs.
  • Develop flexible models of housing and support and link with
    community health agenda.

National action

  • Reframe housing and community care guidance in a community
  • Incorporate the housing, care and support needs of vulnerable
    people into renewal guidance.
  • Promote new funding flexibilities and include supported housing
    in commissioning criteria.
  • Establish indicators to assess the effect of housing and
    support investment in regeneration areas on improvements in the
    health and well-being of vulnerable people.
  • Promote closer linkages between registered social landlord
    roles in developing housing, and support for vulnerable

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