Former Eye mayor leads plea to preserve sheltered homes for town’s elderly

Sheltered housing residents in Tacon Close, Eye, are concerned their services may be cut by Mid Suffolk District Council.

Pictured: Suzanne Watson with Mother resident Florence Watson and Town Councillor Caroline Byles ANL-161123-164651009

Sheltered housing residents in Tacon Close, Eye, are concerned their services may be cut by Mid Suffolk District Council. Pictured: Suzanne Watson with Mother resident Florence Watson and Town Councillor Caroline Byles ANL-161123-164651009

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A former Eye mayor has joined the chorus of voices urging a re-think on a proposal for the ‘de-sheltering’ of homes in the town, due to concerns that it did not safeguard elderly residents.

Mid Suffolk District Council is set to vote on changes to Sheltered Housing Services next month, as it looks to reduce the number of schemes from April 1, 2017.

Tacon Close, a purpose-built sheltered accomodation street near the centre of Eye, is one of the areas that could be affected by the changes, which will see many residents reclassified as ‘general needs’ tenants, meaning services like daily visits by a warden or the 24-hour pull-chord alarms may no longer be available to them.

Caroline Byles, ex-mayor and current town councillor, said she had to speak up as a “concerned resident”, stating she believed the district council had already made up its mind, and had not given any assurances to sheltered tenants.

Mrs Byles told the Diss Express: “We have got a growing aging population and we need these facilities.

“At Tacon Close, they can walk into Eye town centre. There are so many shops and cafés and they really love it. This is a very popular sheltered housing road.

“They are dear little houses and it’s a happy community. I just feel like it’s being broken up thoughtlessly.”

A major concern for those against the proposed changes is that if ‘de-sheltered’ homes fell under the ‘right to buy’ scheme, they could be permanently lost from the council housing stock, and they felt there was no guarantee they will subsequently still be let out to the elderly community.

Suzanne Watson, whose mother Florence has been a sheltered tenant in Tacon Close for two years, explained the facilities bridged an important gap for elderly people outside of the care home system, and she called the proposals “a very ill-thought out plan for a short term gain”.

She said: “To just save a little bit of money, it’s going to cause a lot of problems.

“The knock-on effects will be to the NHS and social services.

“They might have someone who has a fall and is there for a while. What we would like is to have a warden more often, not less.

“It’s not joined-up thinking.

A spokesperson for Mid Suffolk District Council stated that although they proposed to de-designate Tacon Close, they considered the needs of vulnerable tenants and would still offer some of them alarms and welfare visits.

“Those residents still requiring the independent housing with low level support which sheltered accommodation is designed to provide, will still get this service under these proposals,” the spokesperson said.

“For future sheltered vacancies, we aim to develop a local lettings policy, to ensure those offered accommodation need and want the support offered, as we’d like to reduce the number of people living in our schemes who don’t require the support.”