Saturday, 7 January 2012

Proposals for improvements to sheltered housing in Reading


After a thorough and wide ranging consultation with tenants, potential tenants, families and other interested organisations we will be considering proposals to improve our much valued sheltered housing service further at the cabinet meeting a week on Monday (16th January).  There are 5 key proposals and together the aim is to provide a flexible, responsive service that meets the needs of today's sheltered housing tenants but retaining the excellent service and dedication that our sheltered housing team deliver.

The Labour administration has listened carefully to resident's views and has been determined throughout that this would be driven by resident's views not by a fixed pre-ordained outcome, in marked contrast I may say to the experience last year when consultations were followed for statutory reasons with the political decisions being to all appearances cut and dried in advance.  I remember being told memorably last year by a member of last year's cabinet, that there was no legal obligation to consult residents on a particular matter and therefore no need to do so.

The council's press release is below:

Plans to re-shape and improve Reading's sheltered housing support service are to be discussed by the Council's Cabinet on 16th January.

These plans have been the subject of a major consultation with sheltered housing tenants, their families, carers, and voluntary organisations across Reading, and have been revised to take account of the views expressed.

Key proposals include:

" The introduction of an activities officer or service to enable greater participation by tenants and neighbouring older people in social and health activities. This was widely welcomed by residents.

" Fixed on-site attendance times for staff so residents can be sure when Sheltered Housing Officers will be available.

" An officer will be on duty at each sheltered housing scheme between 8am and 1pm at week-ends, after which an off-site service will provide cover. The original proposal, for Council staff to provide on-call cover from home, has been revised as a result of feedback from residents.

" Opening up some schemes to people aged under 60 years with support needs. This has been modified in response to residents' views to specify a minimum age of 55 years. The Director of Education, Social Services and Housing would have discretion, within the spirit of the new age criteria, in other cases of exceptional or emergency need. If approved by Cabinet, the Council intends to consult residents on the revised proposal.

" The Council proposes to integrate the current night service with a new 'Reading 24' out-of-hours service. This will probably involve a transition period in which Council staff will provide early-evening cover before switching to the new on-call service during quieter periods.

" A proposal to change the support times at some of the schemes remains unchanged. Instead of having one sheltered housing officer based at each scheme, seven of the schemes would be looked after by two teams of staff, with staff available at fixed times at each site. Three other schemes   Christchurch Court, Bristow Close and Tyrrell Court   would each retain a dedicated officer. Although there will be changes in staffing levels, support time for individuals will continue to be determined through their individual support plan. Staffing ratios across the schemes will actually improve, owing to the decommissioning of Orrin Close and Helmsdale Close sheltered housing schemes   part of the Dee Park regeneration.

In addition to providing new initiatives for sheltered tenants, these more effective and targeted ways of working, will enable the Council to reinvest up to £120k a year into new services for older people with support needs across Reading.

The Council has held more than 130 meetings with tenants and their families/carers over the last few months to make sure they understood the changes being proposed and to help the Council understand the impact of the changes and any concerns as a result. Over 200 people have filled in the consultation forms, which has been very important in shaping the proposals which are now being presented to Cabinet.

Rachel Eden, lead councillor for Housing and Neighbourhoods, said: 'This has been a comprehensive consultation and we have listened carefully to the views of tenants. Tenants and local organisations have welcomed the opportunity to work with our sheltered housing team to make suggestions for improvements to the proposals and I am grateful to all those who took part as it has helped us to ensure these proposals meet the needs of current and future tenants.

'Tenants have also taken the opportunity to express their appreciation for the work that our dedicated sheltered housing team do, and the Council will continue to make this a service Reading can be proud of.'

Following the Cabinet meeting, which will take place at the Civic Offices, on January 16th, all tenants will be informed in writing of its decision. If the proposals are approved, then a formal consultation period will begin with the sheltered housing team about staff changes and impacts.

Implementation of all the changes will be phased in over a year, beginning May 2012.