Housing group says providers’ failings lie behind evictions

    Sheltered housing tenants with registered social landlords are
    often being evicted because of a failure by professionals to share
    information. Craig Kenny reports

    Sheltered housing specialists have warned that older people with
    dementia are being evicted from sheltered housing because their
    needs have been incorrectly assessed.

    A consortium of social housing providers – the Emerging Role
    of Sheltered Housing – claims that seven tenancies with four
    registered social landlords in London broke down within a month
    after each tenant’s behaviour became bizarre or
    antisocial.

    However, Meic Phillips, chair of the consortium’s good
    practice group, insists evictions are a last resort for registered
    social landlords.
    He says: “Where an eviction takes place, the matter moves to
    the homelessness services and temporary accommodation or, in some
    extreme cases, people go to the street or slip away from local
    provision to family or friends. But, more often, the process of
    seeking eviction and the recognition that a person’s home is
    at risk can bring appropriate resources into the life of the
    individual.”

    The failure of social care, health and housing providers to share
    information about prospective tenants often lies at the heart of
    the problem, Phillips says.

    “Sometimes, issues about disclosure of true needs and mental
    health conditions by social services to housing professionals may
    result in breakdowns of tenancies,” he says.

    “Often, an older people’s team, instead of a mental
    health team, may deal with people once they reach retirement age
    and they may not have access to medical information.”

    Specialist dementia teams are best suited to intervening early on
    to prevent a tenancy breaking down, Phillips adds.

    He suggests that, for people with more complex needs, extra care
    housing or specialist residential care may be more
    appropriate.

    But the need to fulfil agreements between registered social
    landlords and local authorities can sometimes lead to corners being
    cut, he warns.

    “Local authorities may be allocating to registered social
    landlords or their own stock without knowledge of
    individuals’ behavioural histories,” Phillips says.
    “Nomination agreements and the rush to fill empty properties
    may not be conducive to landlords conducting effective assessments.
    There’s often exasperation in sheltered housing that people
    who are allocated don’t come with support.”

    Gwen Hassell, membership secretary of the National Wardens
    Association, says pressure is sometimes applied to sheltered
    housing providers to make inappropriate placements.

    “I have one 56 year old with mental health needs who I feel
    we are being harassed into offering a flat by her, her social
    workers and her advocates,” she says. “But I am not
    sure a woman of that age would be happy among people whose average
    age is 78. It might compound her problems.”

    Hassell argues that social services need to recognise that wardens
    can often have a valuable input into ensuring that sheltered
    tenancies are successful.

    She says: “Wardens see the tenant 24/7, often more than their
    own family do. But social workers can
    be quite dismissive of us as we are not medically trained. They
    need to trust us. Housing is only just being recognised as part of
    the jigsaw. We should be involved in case conferences.”

    Phillips agrees that social workers “miss a trick” if
    they walk past the warden’s office and fail to engage with
    them when making
    an assessment.

    “Wardens see any behavioural or physical changes, and may
    know about any coping strategies the tenant may have,” he
    says.
    He identifies several areas where practice could be better, as well
    as the sharing of information and understanding of the rules around
    confidentiality.

    “Management of medication, community psychiatric services and
    appropriate care plans where the warden is actively engaged as a
    significant service in the life of the individual are all areas
    where practice can be improved.

    “The Supporting People initiative may join all these dots,
    but some are still being missed.” CC

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