Agenda Item No
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection):2 December 2015
Report of the Director of Environment and Housing Service
Support for Older People Funded by Supporting People
Purpose of the Report
To apprise Scrutiny Committee of the requirements of the Supporting People Programme Grant Guidance (SPPG) June 2013 in respect of services for older people.
That Scrutiny Committee notes the report.
Reason for the Recommendation
To make Scrutiny Committee aware of the requirement for the Council to ensure that warden and emergency alarm services funded by the Supporting People Programme Grant comply with the Welsh Government Guidance issued in June 2013.
The Supporting People (SP) Programme is the policy and funding framework for delivering housing related support to vulnerable people in different types of accommodation and across all tenure.
The programme contributes to meeting the aims of 'Improving Lives and Communities - Homes in Wales' the National Housing Strategy and the ten year Homelessness Plan, with a strong emphasis on the prevention of homelessness. Its importance is also recognised in the Housing (Wales) Act 2014.
Prior to the start of the Scheme on the 1st April 2003, tenants in Wales who received a warden and alarm service in social rented housing designated for older people (Council and Housing Association properties) who were on a low income, were able to receive financial assistance to cover these costs from Housing Benefit.
Council Tenants in the Vale of Glamorgan however were not at that time charged for the services, as the cost was pooled across all tenants. The Supporting People Guidance issued in 2002 stated that tenants should not be made worse off financially. Therefore a sum equivalent to the cost of the existing tenants' services was calculated and included by Welsh Government in the Grant that transferred to the Council on 1st April 2003. This was to ensure that the cost of the services to these tenants continued to be met until such time as they vacated their properties.
This protection from the charges has continued to date for Council tenancies that existed prior to 1st April 2003. However, those tenants who moved into sheltered schemes or into properties with emergency alarms designated for older people over the age of 55 after that date have had a charge levied for both services. If however the tenant was on a low income, they were able to apply for financial assistance to cover the costs. In respect of the warden cost, 70% of the charge equates to housing management and could be covered by their Housing Benefit and 30% of the charge, which is for housing related support, could be covered by the Supporting People Programme Grant along with of the alarm service provided to those tenants.
Relevant Issues and Options
In 2009 the then Deputy Minister for Housing and Regeneration, Jocelyn Davies A.M. commissioned an independent review of the Supporting People Programme by Sir Mansell Aylward and his report was published in November 2010.
One of the recommendations made in the report was that the eligibility criteria for older people receiving Supporting People funding should be based on need rather than age or tenure.
This recommendation led to a change in the eligibility of funding for older people services which was then included in the new Supporting People Guidance published by Welsh Government in 2012, updated in June 2013. These changes are now being implemented across Wales.
In the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff the change is being managed by the Supporting People Regional Collaborative Committee (RCC), which is made up of both statutory and voluntary sector members determined by Welsh Government. This Committee has set up a Task and Finish Group to work with landlords and providers across the region to ensure that a consistent approach is taken to implementing the change and that consultation takes place with service users.
The Task and Finish Group has developed a new Needs Assessment form with guidance which has been sent these to all landlords providing older people's services across the region, including the Council. These forms will be used to map the current support needs of the tenants. It has also recommended and had approved by the RCC the timeframe to implement the funding changes. From 1st April 2017, the Supporting People Programme Grant will no longer be able to cover the cost of the housing related support element of the warden service or the alarm costs unless the tenant is deemed to need the services. However, it has not yet been determined if the RCC will consider agreeing any financial protection for existing tenants.
The Council has five sheltered housing schemes across the County with 335 homes covered by the warden service. There are also over one thousand emergency alarms in properties designated for older people, including those in the sheltered schemes.
Anyone over the age of 60 can currently apply to live in one of the Council's sheltered schemes or over 55 in an elderly designated home outside of a sheltered complex with an emergency alarm. The properties are allocated through the Homes4U Scheme and no account is taken of whether the tenant needs these services; the allocation is based on the bidding process only. Therefore in order to understand the impact of the changes of the funding entitlement on tenants, the Council has commenced the needs assessment process.
The Housing Service has written to all tenants outlining the process and undertaken a number of informal meetings at sheltered scheme coffee mornings to reassure residents. Scheme Wardens are also providing direct support and assistance to residents to help understand the needs assessment process. The Operational Manager for Housing and the Supporting People and Strategy Manager have also recently met with the Sheltered Housing Tenants Forum at a question and answer session and have agreed to further consult with this group as the process develops.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
The Needs Assessments will be conducted by Wardens and staff within the Housing Management Section using existing resources.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
The removal of the Supporting People Programme Grant funding for tenants who do not need the warden and or emergency alarm services could result in a reduction in the revenue funding needed to retain these services in their current form.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
Existing Council tenants who receive these services do so in accordance with the Secure Tenancy Agreements that they have in place with the Council, which make the payment of the service charges a condition of their tenancy.
Crime and Disorder Implications
The continuation of good quality support services will protect and support vulnerable clients who are likely to be more susceptible to experience crime and disorder difficulties.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
The change in funding will ensure equality of access to support services for older people. Older people will be able to access services based on need rather than the tenure of the accommodation in which they live, which currently excludes private tenants and owner occupiers.
This report is consistent with the Corporate Objective of the Council regarding Housing:
"Vale of Glamorgan residents have access to affordable, good quality suitable housing and housing advice and support."
This report is also consistent with the Council's Local Housing Strategy 2015-20 which aims to ensure that 'Vale of Glamorgan residents have access to affordable, good quality suitable housing and housing advice and support'.
Policy Framework and Budget
This report is consistent with the Policy Framework and budget.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
This report will apply to all areas of the Vale of Glamorgan and therefore no individual ward member consultation has been undertaken.
The Supporting People Programme in Wales: Final Report on a Review commissioned by Jocelyn Davies AM, Deputy Minister for Regeneration - Welsh Assembly Government November 2010.
The new Supporting People Programme Grant (SPPG) Guidance (Wales) - Welsh Government June 2013.
Pam Toms - Housing Solutions and Supporting People Team Leader
Lori Bigglestone- Accountant
Committee Reports - Legal Services
Miles Punter, Director of Environment and Housing Services