Bid to protect elderly in Southend sheltered accommodation from antisocial behaviour

A bid to prevent people under 60 with mental health and substance abuse issues being placed in sheltered accommodation for the elderly in Southend has moved a step forward.

Southend Council carried a motion to prevent vulnerable younger people being placed in council sheltered accommodation after it was claimed elderly people were suffering antisocial behaviour.

Nick Ward, Independent councillor for Shoebury Ward, tabled the motion at Thursday’s full council meeting. He said: “Five years ago this council changed the tenancy procedure so that under 60s could move in. The age was then moved to 50. This has caused many problems with social interactions between the residents. I’ve had numerous complaints. I’ve brought this motion so we can have a conversation about these issues and try and find a resolve.”

Steven Wakefield also an Independent councillor for Shoebury Ward added: “We know people have the right to live somewhere but not when it brings down the community spirit and causes havoc for everyone else.”

He added the elderly no longer had a “place of peace and tranquility”.

However, Daniel Cowan, leader of the Labour group said: “This motion is about antisocial behaviour rather than the age of people who live in sheltered accommodation. I think the idea that people aged between 50 and 59 suffer from a lack of community to be a bit ridiculous.”

Tricia Cowdrey, Residents First councillor for Kursaal Ward, said “We have to be very careful we do not discriminate in relation to age as set out under the Equality Act. On the sites in my ward there have been problems with antisocial behaviour, crime and nuisance and this has been attributed to the fact that the criteria has changed and those who are deemed vulnerable, which includes those with disabilities, mental health issues and substance abuse and other problems who need the same type of oversight and support.

“I have to say I object intensely to referring to individuals who need our support as “these people”. We all know that high dependency and adaptable accommodation is scarce and we have a duty of care to all our residents.”

Ian Gilbert Labour councillor for Victoria Ward said: “This is not something you can solve purely on hard and fast rules purely on age. There is a whole host of factors which need to be taken into account. We cannot divorce this from is the complete lack of mental health support out in the community.”

Councillors voted 23 to 20 in favour of the motion which will now be considered by cabinet.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter