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Cabinet agrees new supported housing policy

Red Rose Lancashire

A new way of reviewing supported tenancies for people with additional needs has been agreed by Lancashire County Council’s cabinet yesterday.

The policy, which aims to increase the occupancy in supported tenancies, is being introduced following an eight week consultation with tenants, their families, care providers and the public.

Housing is provided by housing organisations. The care and support to tenants is delivered by care providers and commissioned by Lancashire County Council.

People living in these schemes are supported to live good lives in the community. In most supported housing, there is support around the clock.

Most of these schemes have been in place for many years. Some are not in popular places or have issues including stairs that may no longer be ideal or the people that live there no longer want to share their home with others.

When there are one or more long-term vacancies in households, it can cause problems for remaining tenants. They may have more support than they need, which impacts on their independence or they may feel lonely without housemates. They will also pay more for household bills than when the house was full.

Vacancies represent additional costs for the county council as the need for round the clock support remains, but it is shared with fewer people.

County Councillor Graham Gooch, cabinet member for adult services, said: “Supported housing vacancies are a major problem.

“There are currently 160 properties with one or more vacancies, out of a total of 700 supported housing schemes. There are around 225 vacancies in total.

“We have a good record of working with providers to fill these as quickly as possible. However, some properties have had long running vacancies for years with no realistic prospect of them ever being filled.

“We can’t keep using council funds to pay for properties that aren’t being used when there are so many other services we need to provide.

“The policy will help to minimise the problem and ensure we make the best use of the accommodation available.”

A number of changes have been made to the original policy following the consultation. These include:

• Working even more closely with landlords to act earlier to avoid vacancies.
• Informing tenants of their rights more clearly and outlining how they can access advocacy services to help them with any supported housing issues if they need to.
• Working in partnership with housing and care providers more fully in developing new arrangements.
• To consider access to the local community, such as transport links, shops, pubs, libraries and employment opportunities, when considering new developments.

County Councillor Gooch added: “There were some very good points put forward in the consultation.

“We’ve incorporated suggestions into the new policy. We now think it better reflects the needs of tenants, their families and providers.

“This policy is a key part of our plans to improve accommodation for adults with disabilities.”

There are different models of supported living, the most common model in Lancashire is shared houses, where people live together with a shared kitchen, bathroom and lounge.

County Councillor Gooch added: “Shared houses will remain an important part of how people with additional needs are supported in Lancashire.

“In tandem with the review process, we will be working on new developments offering people the same around-the-clock support in apartment developments. This means that people will have their own front door, their home, which they can decorate to their own choosing, where they can have visitors in the privacy of their own apartment.

“These new developments will be in the heart of the community and will ensure people are provided with opportunities to live their life with good support.”

For more information about this decision, visit council.lancashire.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=122&MId=10337

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