Vulnerable left waiting over use of sheltered accommodation in Waltham Forest

Elderly and disabled people are waiting years for sheltered accommodation while flats sit empty or are given to people that don’t need them.

Last year, “around a third” of flats in Waltham Forest Council’s four sheltered accommodation blocks were “void” or occupied by people “with no sheltered housing need”.

Despite this, the “incredibly low” usage of the blocks’ 24/7 carers was used as a reason to end the contract for overnight support in order to save money.

Now only one of the four blocks – Baytree House in Chingford – has overnight care, while Albany Court in Walthamstow and Glebelands in Leyton only have daytime carers.

The final block, Heavitree Court in Walthamstow, is no longer sheltered housing and will house the homeless for the next decade.

At the adult social care scrutiny committee on November 3, committee member Cllr Marie Pye said she was “very unhappy” sheltered accommodation had been given to people who only needed normal housing.

She said: “I would like to put on record how disappointed I am that the housing team is continuing to place people with general needs in schemes for people who need sheltered housing – older and disabled people.

“Huge amounts of my case work is with older people who have been on the waiting list for years – they have said they would love sheltered housing and are still waiting.

“The idea that people put general needs housing into the wrong setting is making me very unhappy as a councillor.”

In December last year, council leaders voted not to renew the £560,696 annual contract with Notting Hill Genesis, arguing it would cut costs by £400,000.

At the time, relatives of former and current residents called the decision “scandalous”, with some forced to reprovide the lost support themselves.

Explaining the decision at the meeting last week, the council’s head of integrated commissioning Michael Cleary said the service had not been good value for money.

He said: “We found that it was used per resident around an hour over a period of a month, which was incredibly low, particularly overnight.

“Around a third of flats were actually void or the people were there through a normal route, with no sheltered housing need.

“We believed some needed the emergency response, and used it regularly, and others did not need it. We felt there may be a case to investigate different models of care.”

The contract for 24/7 support at Baytree House was awarded to care provider CSN Care Group and residents were assessed to see if they needed extra support or could manage without overnight care.

Cleary added: “The moves have been safe, the quality was maintained and changes were implemented in a cost effective way.”

A report brought to the committee noted this also freed rooms at Baytree House to provide “step-down” accommodation for people being discharged from hospital.


Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter