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Aberdeenshire SNP Members Call for Sheltered Housing Audit

>> 7 March 2013

SNP Councillors, who have repeatedly expressed concerns on the impact of cuts to Sheltered Housing officer cover, will again challenge the Administration to audit the needs of Aberdeenshire’s Sheltered Housing residents at a meeting of Full Council on Thursday.

The move follows a debate in the Social Work and Housing Committee in December which saw members divide 8-6 over an SNP amendment which sought to commit the Council to carry out a full assessment of the needs of sheltered housing residents. Members were presented with the results of a survey commissioned by the Council which revealed that, a year after the changes were initiated; both staff and residents reported a number of ongoing concerns and shortcomings in the new system. Those concerns have more recently been corroborated in a consultation of sheltered housing staff who are members of the union, Unison.

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, and successfully moved that the matter be referred to Full Council for further debate.

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

“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 moved by Councillor Allison Grant (West Garioch), and seconded by Councillor Geva Blackett, (Aboyne, Upper Deeside & Donside), who added:

“My ward contains some of the hardest to reach sheltered housing in Aberdeenshire, particularly in adverse weather. Older people are often the least likely to complain about their lot - and we have an Administration which is in denial about this.

“It is only by carrying out a full audit of residents’ needs that we can be sure that they are being properly addressed”.

Councillor Rob Merson (Ellon & District) who has been a stern critic of the cuts to Sheltered Housing Officer cover, commented:

“The hard truth is that the consultation which was carried out with staff and residents was a damning indictment of the new system - and the Unison report has only served to confirm that those concerns are justified.

“I am extremely grateful that my colleagues in the Social Work & Housing Committee have called for urgent action on this issue and referred it for discussion at Full Council. That will mean that every councillor will be able to vote on this important issue – and will enable the public to identify those councillors who are not prepared to stand up for one of the most vulnerable sectors of our society.”

The move was welcomed by Fraserburgh sheltered housing resident, Martin Coull, who has campaigned against the cuts, and remarked:

“Aberdeenshire Council was extremely defensive when I lodged a complaint with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman against the initial consultation which they commissioned from Lowland Market Research. I therefore trust that they will be equally as diligent in accepting the concerns which have been reported in this one, and confirmed by the findings of the Unison report.

“These are real people the Council is dealing with here, and the residents of Aberdeenshire’s sheltered housing complexes will expect their elected representatives to look to their consciences.”

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