A long-standing sheltered accommodation street in Eye is one of many set to lose its designation, after district councillors green-lit major changes to local sheltered housing provisions.
Mid Suffolk District Council voted at an Executive Committee meeting on Monday night to decrease the number of sheltered homes it subsidises with support grants, following a review which determined that shifting demographics had resulted in lower demand for sheltered housing services.
For the Diss Express area, Tacon Close in Eye, as well as Albert Close in Rickinghall and Victoria Gardens in Wattisfield, are among the 15 locations to be reclassified as ‘general needs’ accommodation, meaning a reduction in services like 24-hour pull-cord alarm systems and daily visits by a welfare warden.
In its report, the district council highlighted Tacon Close as an example of sheltered housing which had “become increasingly hard to let over the last few years”, but was also relatively popular to let for people who would prefer that the street be categorised as ‘general needs’.
Councillor John Levantis, Mid Suffolk District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Housing Delivery, said: “Over the years, the provision of sheltered accommodation has become less than ideal, with some residents living in properties that are not suited to their needs.
“This review has given us an opportunity to focus support where it is most needed and in the long term, to ensure we have the right type of housing and tenure in the right places.”
But opponents of these cuts, which are expected to take full effect in 2018, warned that re-classifying sheltered homes may result in them falling under the ‘right to buy’ scheme, leading to a loss of social housing stock for the most vulnerable.
Councillor Sarah Mansel, the district council’s Shadow Portfolio Holder for Housing, stated: “We have no problem letting these properties to other tenants, but should not de-designate them, as that would risk their discounted sale, meaning they were no longer available to meet special needs.”
Councillor Andrew Stringer, the leader of the council’s Green Party group, who also represents Mendlesham, added: “This move makes little sense when set against the problems of the NHS struggling to send patients to safe homes once their treatment is complete.
“There is talk of more domiciliary services to support people in their own homes, but we should not diminish our sheltered provision unless alternatives are already in place.”
For areas such as Tacon Close that are losing their sheltered designation, Mid Suffolk District Council insists it has considered the needs of residents and would continue services for those who required them.
However, Suzanne Watson, whose mother Florence is a sheltered tenant at Tacon Close, said she had followed the changes closely and there had been no guarantee that services would remain. She argued, if anything, they should have been expanded for vulnerable people.
“It’s a stitch-up,” she told the Diss Express.
“I have talked to a few Eye town councillors and they are of the opinion that Mid Suffolk really wants to sell the homes because the maintenance is too much and this is one step closer to doing that.
“They are putting the burden on the NHS and social services. It will mean I have probably got to get another carer in for mum, if I can.”
Ms Watson also criticised the consultation process as “flawed”, claiming the results had been skewed by ‘general’ tenants living in sheltered homes with no need for specialist services.
She added: “They are not really thinking about the future of elderly people in that area. There’s always going to be a need for sheltered accommodation.”