A new council scheme will support elderly and vulnerable tenants

Phased charging system to be introduced in stages up to April 2017

The Housing Service at East Devon District Council has found a way to maintain many of the support services for elderly and vulnerable tenants, which came under threat following cuts of around half a million pounds in funding from Devon County Council for the coming year alone.

The new scheme, which comes into effect on 6 April, has the approval of East Devon’s Housing Review Board and is aimed at minimising the impact of the cuts on over 1,300 elderly and vulnerable tenants in the district. It follows careful examination of the options and a comprehensive consultation exercise with tenants.

From April 2015 Devon County Council will no longer cover the cost of the highly-rated Home Safeguard alarm service that the district council provides, or the visits or calls made by East Devon’s Mobile Support Officers. Social care packages will be available only to individuals with an assessed need for social care.

Cost impact

As with any compromise solution, there will be a cost impact for the people receiving the service. But the district council will be keeping charges* as low as possible and will phase them in for existing tenants, who will not pay the full price until April 2017. New tenants will be liable for the full cost from the start date of 6 April 2015.

Tenants who receive full housing benefit will not have to pay the housing management element of the charge as this will be covered by their benefit payment.

As a result of the work we have been doing with partners – including Devon County Council – we have come up with some alternative ways of meeting the challenge posed by the reduced funding.

The new system is the result of many hours of painstaking work with representatives of the county council and other partners. A comprehensive consultation exercise that included 19 sessions was held across the district in October and November last year.

Tenants will hear about the changes in a leaflet** that will be delivered to each affected household in the week beginning 23 February. Revised rent statements showing the charges will arrive during the week beginning 2 March.

There will also be a series of drop-in sessions around the district, starting on 3 March, where tenants will be able to meet council staff and ask questions about the new charging system.

Commenting on the new arrangements, Councillor Jill Elson, cabinet member for sustainable homes and communities, said:

It is a fact of life that someone has to pay for services provided and the only question in this case was how to provide a range of services to answer people’s needs without charging them more than they can afford.

Unlike some councils, we never considered the easy option of just withdrawing the service altogether.

Commitment

We were determined to ensure that those tenants who want to continue living in their own homes are able to do so. And we have honoured our commitment to giving tenants a say in the type and implementation of any changes.

I have said all along that I want to see these services continue and we spent time exploring ways to make it happen. We value our Mobile Support Officers and the help they give our tenants in Sheltered Housing. Our tenants say they feel safer knowing someone will call.

We have worked with tenants to ensure they are receiving the benefits they are entitled to and if their needs have changed. We promised we would ensure that tenants were involved in finding solutions and the consultation sessions held last autumn were aimed at helping them to do just that.

*The charge is made up of three parts: • a charge for the Home Safeguard alarm equipment • a charge for the support service that we provide to keep tenants independent • a charge for the housing management service given by the mobile support officers.

Alarm charge             Support charge             Housing management #

£3.70 per week          £5.83 per week             £3.50 per week

# covered by housing benefit for those in receipt of full housing benefit.

Devon County Council advised in 2014 that the Older Persons Targeted Support Agreement would come to an end in the existing financial year and would not be extended for 2015/16. As a result, in that year alone East Devon’s service for elderly tenants will lose £419,000 from the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and £104,750 from the Home Safeguard budget (General Fund), amounting to £523,750 in total. Cuts will apply again in future years.

All sheltered housing tenants in East Devon were informed by letter that county cuts could have an impact on some services but that they would not affect any other tenancy conditions.

In all 19 sessions were held across East Devon during November and the district council was able to canvass the opinions of over 500 tenants.

** a copy of the leaflet is available on request