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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 10/09/2002
SUPPORTING PEOPLE STRATEGY



This report reminds members of the Government’s proposed new arrangements for the implementation of ‘Supporting People’ and the changes this means for the way in which people who live in supported housing will receive Housing Benefit and new payments to cover their landlord costs and care costs.

In order to meet the administrative requirements of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), a ‘Supporting People Strategy’ has to be formulated and agreed by partner agencies and presented to the ODPM by the end of October. This report comments on the implications for Waverley of the Surrey-wide ‘Supporting People Strategy’. The introduction of the new Supporting People regime presents this Council with certain challenges in respect of sheltered housing and how the services provided in the eleven sheltered housing schemes are managed, provided and funded. The Supporting People regime also provides opportunities to fund new services – though this is potentially at the cost of other services. Notwithstanding the challenges and opportunities, the report recommends that the Strategy should be approved by the Council.

The Lead Officer for Supporting People in Surrey, Ms Rebecca Pritchard, will be attending the Committee meeting. Ms Pritchard will make a presentation about Supporting People in general, comment on the Supporting People Strategy and some of the issues pertinent to Waverley. She will then be available to the Committee to answer questions posed by Members in the Committee’s Scrutiny role.

There are significant ‘Opportunities for All’ implications that are apparent from the report, as the Supporting People proposals and implementation of its changes affect some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Potentially, the Supporting People regime will have significant implications as to how the Council continues to operate sheltered housing.

There are no sustainability/environmental implications.
APPENDIX C

WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL
COMMUNITY OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – 10TH SEPTEMBER 2002

Title:
SUPPORTING PEOPLE STRATEGY

[Wards Affected : All]

Summary and Purpose

This report reminds members of the Government’s proposed new arrangements for the implementation of ‘Supporting People’ and the changes this means for the way in which people who live in supported housing will receive Housing Benefit and new payments to cover their landlord costs and care costs.

In order to meet the administrative requirements of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), a ‘Supporting People Strategy’ has to be formulated and agreed by partner agencies and presented to the ODPM by the end of October. This report comments on the implications for Waverley of the Surrey-wide ‘Supporting People Strategy’. The introduction of the new Supporting People regime presents this Council with certain challenges in respect of sheltered housing and how the services provided in the eleven sheltered housing schemes are managed, provided and funded. The Supporting People regime also provides opportunities to fund new services – though this is potentially at the cost of other services. Notwithstanding the challenges and opportunities, the report recommends that the Strategy should be approved by the Council.

The Lead Officer for Supporting People in Surrey, Ms Rebecca Pritchard, will be attending the Committee meeting. Ms Pritchard will make a presentation about Supporting People in general, comment on the Supporting People Strategy and some of the issues pertinent to Waverley. She will then be available to the Committee to answer questions posed by Members in the Committee’s Scrutiny role.

There are significant ‘Opportunities for All’ implications that are apparent from the report, as the Supporting People proposals and implementation of its changes affect some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Potentially, the Supporting People regime will have significant implications as to how the Council continues to operate sheltered housing.

There are no sustainability/environmental implications.

Introduction

1. Following a period of consultation, the Government announced in March 1999 that it had decided to introduce significant changes to the way in which payments were to be made to those who lived in accommodation with staff support – for example, sheltered housing schemes, groups homes for people with disabilities, hostel accommodation for vulnerable groups of people etc. At present much of the housing and care costs are met through Housing Benefit. The new system intends to ensure that Housing Benefit payments are only for ‘bricks and mortar’ and landlord services; and that support services are to be funded by a ring-fenced pool of funding to be administered by ‘local authorities’.

2. Two main factors prompted the Government to make changes to the Housing Benefit regime in respect of care costs viz:

• a Judicial Review in 1997 determined that it was unlawful for housing benefit to be used to
cover non-‘bricks and mortar’ rental costs; and

3. The new way of funding supported housing is called ‘Supporting People’. The main features of ‘Supporting People’ are:-

4. There have been reports on the subject of Supporting People to earlier meetings of the Housing and Community Welfare Committee (January 2001); the Executive (December 2001) and the Member/Tenants’ Special Interest Group (June 2002). It is an issue that has featured in the Council’s Housing Strategy Statements in the past and current year.

Implementing Supporting People Arrangements

5. ‘Supporting People’ represents a significant national policy change affecting the future funding of supported living for vulnerable people. The Government is determined that its implementation date of April 2003 will be met and this has resulted in significant preparation, involving social services, probation, housing, housing benefit and health services, as well as the voluntary sector.

Scope of the ‘Supporting People’ Programme

6. The ‘Supporting People’ policy changes will have substantial implications for Surrey County Council and the way in which Borough and District Councils work to enable the implementation to occur as smoothly as possible. The ‘Supporting People’ grant will be needed to meet the supported housing needs of a wide range of vulnerable groups including:

Draft Supporting People Strategy

7. Extracts from the draft Supporting People Strategy are attached at Annexe 1. The draft Strategy has been jointly drawn-up following extensive consultation and research. A copy of the full Strategy document has been placed in the Members’ Room and is also available on the Council’s Website Members’ Zone.

8. It should be noted that the Strategy has been prepared in the format prescribed by the ODPM. It is worth noting that the Strategy is about how, at a county-wide level, Supporting People is to be implemented and how finite resources are to be allocated and redistributed to meet the highest needs across the county, whilst reflecting local needs and priorities. Part of the role of the Supporting People Team will be to review services currently providing support to people in their own homes and considering whether this is providing value for money and the public purse.

9. It is considered that within the parameters set by the ODPM, the Surrey Supporting People Strategy is a good piece of work and tries to balance the needs against resources to be available. Ultimately, only when implementation happens will the robustness of the Supporting People regime be tested.

Implications for Waverley

10. The most significant issue for Waverley arising from the Strategy, is the proposal that the Supporting People Team will be undertaking early reviews of schemes where supporting people payments appear to be expensive, or where there appears to be low demand for the service. This has important implications for Waverley’s eleven fully-sheltered housing schemes.

Cost of Service Provided

11. Like most local authorities, in the past the Council has pooled all the rent it receives from tenants and it pools the costs of running various aspects of the landlord service – including sheltered housing. Residents of Waverley sheltered housing have not paid a rent that reflects the actual cost of providing the services and the level of staffing on site. In effect, Council tenants in general needs and community warden accommodation have been subsidising the cost of sheltered housing. The Supporting People regime requires all landlords who provide ‘support’ to clearly distinguish the cost of providing the ‘bricks and mortar’ element of the landlord service and clearly identify the ‘support’ costs.

12. Waverley provides a relatively high level of staff support in its sheltered housing schemes compared with other local authorities and registered social landlords. It has been the Council’s practice to provide 24-hour staff cover on-site for nearly every day of the year. In order to achieve this objective and to provide cover for staff holidays, most Waverley sheltered housing schemes have the following staff:

13. As from April 2003, the Council will have to charge rent on the bricks and mortar element – and this will be eligible for Housing Benefit. The Council (along with all other landlords providing support) will also have to make a charge for the support provided. The Government has also announced that Councils retaining housing stock must, under the Supporting People regime, continue to charge the current rent as rent and then add the charge to cover the support costs. For example, if the current weekly rent and service charge (i.e. water rates, heat etc) at a sheltered housing scheme is 74, as from April 2003, the Council will have to charge the 74 plus the costs incurred in providing ‘support’. ‘Support’ means the portion of the Manager, Deputy Manager and Assistant Manager’s costs associated with helping residents to live independently as possible with the ‘support’ provided. Given the high level of staff input at Waverley’s sheltered housing schemes, this could add another 24 to the charge the Council has to levy. So, in theory, as from April 2003, the weekly charge to residents could be in the order of 98 (i.e. 74 rent and services charges + 24 support).

14. The ODPM is now suggesting that existing tenants who are not on benefit should be protected from the introduction of the additional charges by local authorities funding support costs from the ‘windfall’ that becomes available from the transfer of support costs to the General Fund. Initially, the real impact of Supporting People will fall on new tenants who move into sheltered housing schemes after April 2003 and are just outside the Benefit system and who will have to meet the full costs of rent and support. Once there has been a scheme review by the Supporting People Team, the financial implications will fall on those who are just outside benefit eligibility criteria – as they will have to meet the full costs of the Support.

15. By comparison, with other providers of sheltered housing in Surrey, Waverley’s costs are significantly higher and the Supporting People Team are likely to critically examine whether they are prepared to pay the charges that Waverley’s schemes will need to charge. Many other comparable sheltered housing schemes do not have staff on-site on a 24 hours basis, and so their costs are significantly lower.

16. It is likely that the new charging structure with the higher costs of sheltered housing will provide a disincentive to older people thinking about the option of moving into sheltered housing.

Low Demand

17. The Surrey Supporting People Strategy also states that where there is a low demand for sheltered housing there will be reviews of the necessity for such schemes. As members will be aware from earlier reports, there has been a significant reduction in the numbers on the Council’s Housing Needs Register interested in sheltered housing. At three of the Council’s sheltered housing schemes there are long term voids – Rolston House, Haslemere; Rowland House, Cranleigh and Dorlcote, Witley. These have been considered unattractive by prospective tenants because they are bedsits with communal facilities. However, there are still relatively few older people on the Housing Needs Register wanting sheltered housing.

18. It is worth noting that Registered Social Landlord (RSL) providers of sheltered accommodation for older people are having difficulty in finding prospective tenants local. Such RSL schemes in Waverley may well be subject of early reviews by the Supporting People Team.

19. In the light of Supporting People, the Council will have to fundamentally review how it operates and provides sheltered housing in the longer term.

20. It should be noted that the issues described above are not of the making of the Surrey Supporting People Team, nor of the Strategy. The issues come about as a result of the Supporting People regime and the rules being applied by the Government.

Other Implications

21. The Strategy includes in its forward plan revenue support for a new housing scheme in Farnham to be developed by Surrey Community Development Trust. It also includes revenue support for move-on accommodation from The Meath Home, in Godalming. The Domestic Violence Outreach scheme is also included in the Strategy’s forward plan. These initiatives are welcomed.

Resource Implications

22. At this stage there are no direct resource implications for the Council other than whether the Council wishes to provide transitional 'protection' for current residents and this could be met from the additional income generated from the de-pooling of HRA rents as described in paragraph 13 above. However, there are important implications as to the future and management of the Council’s sheltered housing schemes because of the cost and low demand factors.

23. Officers will be reporting later in the year on the issue of rent and support charges for sheltered housing schemes.

Conclusions

24. The work undertaken by the partners developing the Surrey Supporting People Strategy is to be commended. Surrey is well ahead of the issue, compared with many other local authorities.

25. Your officers consider that the draft Strategy should be endorsed by the Council, and that regard will be had to the future of sheltered housing in Waverley as part of the Best Value Fundamental Review of Elderly Service in 2004.

Recommendation

It is recommended that the Committee commends to the Executive that:

1. the Surrey Supporting People Strategy be endorsed; and

2. further reports on the implications for sheltered housing in Waverley be considered in due course.


Background Papers (DoH)

Draft Supporting People Strategy 2002/03


Contact Officer: Mr J Swanton Tel: 01483-523375
E-mail: jswanton@waverley.gov.uk

comms/o&s/023