Lancashire supported housing tenants could be moved if property has long-term vacancies
Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has approved a new policy designed to maximise use of the available space within the housing facilities.
There are around 700 supported accommodation schemes across the county, which provide both somewhere to live and help with day-to-day life. However, there were 225 so-called “voids” across 160 of those properties at the end of last year.
Under the new arrangements, long-term vacancies would trigger a review of the tenancy to determine whether it was still viable. The exact timeframe could be influenced by the individual circumstances of the tenancy and those living in it.
A supported housing facility would not be decommissioned until a suitable alternative had been secured for all of the remaining residents. This would not necessarily be on a ‘like-for-like’ basis, but the right of an individual to decide where they want to live will be responded to “as far as reasonably possible within the context of the supply of suitable housing, affordability and their housing rights”.
The impact of any move on each individual would also be considered.
Cabinet member for adult services, Graham Gooch, said that moving home was “not to be taken lightly” for anyone.
However, he added that there were a range of reasons why vacancies might be difficult to fill – and why tenants themselves might want to move on of their own accord.
“People with learning disabilities, just like the rest of us, are unlikely to find a home that meets their needs for their whole life.
“A household where a void cannot be filled often has other [factors that explain why], such as it…being in an unpopular area or one with poor transport links. Some properties may not be in a prime condition and landlords may not be amenable to making alterations which would result in the voids being filled.
“In some cases, relationships between householders may have broken down [and] some people reach the stage where their needs can no longer be met, particularly as they age.
“This will be dealt with sensitively and carefully, including recognising the needs of family to be able to visit and the need to form new relationships and maintain existing friendships,” County Cllr Gooch said.
The meeting heard that vacancies could result in an “overprovision” of support for those remaining in the property, threatening their independence. However, cabinet members were told that it was “unlikely” that a property would be decommissioned “solely in the event that any voids occur”.
The policy was subject to a public consultation earlier this year, which resulted in some suggestions being incorporated into the new plan – including tenants being advised of their right to an advocate during any review of their accommodation.
However, the consultation attracted only one response from a current supported housing tenant, out of a total of just 27 submissions.
Labour opposition leader Azhar Ali said that the consultation period should be reopened to encourage further engagement and a “more meaningful dialogue” with those who could be affected by the changes.
However, council leader Geoff Driver said that while he was disappointed with the response rate, he did not believe that extending the time available would achieve anything other than “further delay”.
The cost of long-term vacancies is not borne by the county council under more recent arrangements, but historical contracts can see the authority paying out up £13,000 per year for an empty space.
The housing element of a supported living tenancy is provided by a traditional landlord, while the care support is commissioned by the county council, usually from a third party provider.
The authority is also planning to develop more apartment schemes, in which vulnerable adults can live with the support they need, but also with the privacy of having their own front door and personal living space.