Aberdeenshire SNP Refer Warden Review to Full Council

>> 20 December 2012

Aberdeenshire SNP Councillors have referred an evaluation of the council’s Sheltered Housing Review to the full council, after Administration Councillors narrowly rejected proposals to enhance the scope of an ongoing review into the service.

The debate, which took place at today’s meeting of the Social Work and Housing Committee, saw members divide 8-6 over an SNP amendment, which would have committed officers to carrying out a full assessment of the needs of sheltered housing residents.

Earlier, SNP councillors had expressed concerns over the impact on residents resulting from cuts in the level of housing warden cover.

The controversial changes to warden cover, which were implemented between November 2011 and January 2012, have seen the replacement of full time warden cover with mobile warden teams. The number of permanent sheltered housing officer posts has reduced from 110 to 75 (full time equivalent) over this period.

During the debate, SNP Councillors voiced anxiety that the different needs of sheltered housing complexes, particularly those in rural areas, would not be considered adequately under the administration’s proposals.

Speaking afterwards, SNP Social Work and Housing Spokesman, Peterhead North & Rattray Councillor Anne Allan, said she was concerned that current recommendations didn’t go far enough.

“The changes to sheltered housing provision, particularly the move to mobile warden teams, have brought to the fore the different problems now being faced by residents in different complexes.

“Some complexes, by virtue of their location, are better served by local infrastructure and public services than others. Removing full time wardens has meant that the ability of residents to access other public services outside core times has become more important than ever.

“To make sure we are meeting the needs of those in sheltered housing wherever they are, the SNP is proposing that an audit be carried out to find the level of support needed for each particular housing complex.

“Keeping matters ‘under review’ and waiting for problems to be reported isn’t good enough. We have to do our best to identify gaps in provision now – I’m pleased that we will now have the opportunity to consider this matter as a full council”

The SNP amendment was seconded by Councillor Geva Blackett, who represents Aboyne, Upper Deeside & Donside. Cllr Blackett added:

“My ward contains some of the hardest to reach sheltered housing in Aberdeenshire, particularly in adverse weather.

“By carrying out an audit covering the needs of particular complexes, we could use the information to inform our response to needs and to shape warden provision accordingly.

“Older people are often the least likely to complain about their lot. That’s why it’s all the more important for us to be proactive as a council and to seek out and solve potential difficulties before they become a problem.”

Note: Councillors were asked on item 4 of the Social Work and Housing agenda to agree the following:
  1. Acknowledge the findings of this evaluation.
  2. Acknowledge that dependency levels in relation to housing support will be kept under review.
  3. Acknowledge that additional capacity has been created in the Sheltered Housing Service to assess new tenants and to support existing tenants to develop and sustain social networks.
  4. Agree to review housing support charges and to receive a further report on this within 12 months.
The SNP amendment was to replace recommendation 2 with:

Agree that an urgent audit of current dependency levels is carried out within each complex, taking into account:
  • The needs of each tenant in the complex.
  • Staffing Rotas
  • Local and regional infrastructure
The amendment was defeated by 8 votes to 6, but will now be considered at the next full meeting of Aberdeenshire Council on 17 January 2013.

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