Help the Aged: Sheltered housing in crisis due to loss of wardens

Sheltered housing for older people is in “crisis” because increasing numbers of live-in wardens are being replaced by floating support teams against residents’ wishes, Help the Aged said today.

In a report based on interviews with tenants and local authorities in England, it estimated that 31% of sheltered housing schemes would lose their on-site wardens over the next three years.

The report, Nobody’s Listening, said that older people living in sheltered accommodation were being “let down” by a lack of consultation and that changes to services were being forced on them.

Trampling on older people’s needs

It said that in some cases services alterations were “trampling on the needs and aspirations of older people”.

In addition the report warned that the loss of wardens could leave older people at “possible risk” from slower response times to emergency calls.

Call for review and votes on wardens

Help the Aged called on the government to conduct an immediate review of its sheltered housing policy and for residents in existing warden schemes to be given a vote on any proposed replacement of warden services.

Senior policy officer Joe Oldman said: “Older people are having services they rely on taken away without warning or consultation. Many who moved into sheltered accommodation are left stunned that such far-reaching changes can be made to their services without their consent.”

He also urged ministers to address the ongoing decline in sheltered housing following predictions that the number of schemes will fall by 7% over the next three years.

Increasing number of complaints

The research was initially prompted by an increasing number of complaints made to Help the Aged about loss of warden services. According to the research 38% of schemes will have established floating support within the next three years, compared with just 5% of schemes five years ago.

Despite this reduction, two-thirds of respondents to their survey said they valued their warden service, although the majority admitted it was not absolutely essential.

Supporting People

The charity pointed to the growth of floating support services funded by Supporting People since the programme, which includes older people’s sheltered housing, was introduced in 2003.

Responding to the report, LGA programme director for community and well-being Anne McDonald said that although many councils were good at consulting service users on changes to sheltered housing, others were less effective.

She added: “A lot of complaints in the report comes from where the process of change has not been handled very well. We are currently working on a project looking at good practice on involving service users when changing or closing services. We will make sure we will include housing schemes in this.”

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