‘We really do care about our residents’
Babergh has responded to criticism of its plans to close some sheltered housing by saying it is responding to falling demand, promising to support any residents who wish to move and suggesting the door has not been closed on financial assistance.
Residents from the First Avenue sheltered Housing scheme in Sudbury have been vocal in their criticism of the changes, with residents saying they cannot afford to move.
As part of proposed changes they may lose their site scheme manager, who checks on residents and is there to assist them, if required, during working hours, five days a week.
They may also lose the council offered emergency pull cord system, though alternatives can be purchased.
The council said these decisions have been made on the back of decreasing demand.
In response to criticism a spokesperson for the council said: “We do care, we really do care about our residents.”
Heather Sparrow, corporate manager for supported living added: “The driver around the review is the residents and the service we provide.
“We know demand is decreasing as we have vacancies and have had to advertise some properties more than once.
“We have also had an increase in the number of residents who opt out of the care of the manager at some sites.”
Mrs Sparrow said this was a national trend, adding that often residents were not wanting to move into sheltered housing as early as previously, with the older retirement age and longer life expectancy.
But Alan Ferguson, Babergh portfolio holder for housing delivery, accepted the district would need to support a growing and ageing population. He said this was being planned for and looked at as plans for housing redevelopment in the area were considered.
He suggested sheltered housing was only part of the solution with a need to build more one and two bedroom homes, both privately and council owned, adding that some of the sites were no longer ideal for residents.
Mr Ferguson said: “We have ended up with people in blocks of flats with other people with very different requirements.”
Mrs Sparrow said research showed people were preferring to live independently for longer or alternatively looking for a higher level of care than offered at the sheltered schemes.
Other schemes included lifetime homes - where improvements such as stairlifts can be easily put in.
Other solutions include very sheltered - a compromise of sheltered housing and a care home, allowing residents their own property but with care and support on site 24 hours-a-day.
Babergh currently has two such sites, Sydney Brown Court in Hadleigh and William Wood House in Sudbury, with the care and support service delivered by Orwell Housing.
Other areas being looked at include the popularity of integral schemes where residents don’t have to go outside to get to communal areas.
Mrs Sparrow said with the proposed changes support could actually be increased at some sites from three manager visits a week to five.
She added that they had received a large amount of feedback and said the final decision would not be a mirror image of those originally proposed.
She added that once a decision had been made the council would visit every resident individually to make sure they knew what they needed to be able to reduce the impact of any changes on them.
Although there were no plans to fund moves between schemes Mr Ferguson said that door had not been closed on this support being given. It is believed very few residents will choose to move.
“If residents haven’t had the opportunity to speak to us then we want to hear from them,” said Mr Ferguson.
You can contact Babergh by calling 01449 724767 or by asking a scheme manager to get in contact.