Housing Strategy for Older and Vulnerable People

Client: Local Authority

Timeframe: around 10 months, working part-time

Project Brief: I was asked by a London local authority to put together strategic proposals for older people’s housing, including proposals for the council’s ageing sheltered housing stock. The initial brief had been augmented with a request to also look into housing issues for a range of vulnerable groups such as young people coming through the care system and people with a mental health history. Proposals would cover the need for new public and private housing supply, and how to make the best use of existing accommodation. Decisions on these were acknowledged to be long overdue.

How Delivered: The project began with data gathering through interviews with key personnel within the council and partner organisations. In order to align proposals with developing social care and health strategies and to establish trust in the project across departments, I set up a multidisciplinary board to steer the project, chaired by Adult Social Care. I also set up a small project team to consult with over 250 local older people through interviews and focus groups.

Colleagues within the council helped me locate and analyse a mass of local demographic data, but information on the sheltered housing stock and service was fragmented. Upon investigation it turned out, as so often, that there was more local knowledge available than expected. Under my direction, local staff were able to find and structure it.  I supplemented this information with my own research and data analysis. By the time my reports and recommendations were delivered to senior management and elected members, policymakers were able to see the council’s sheltered housing stock and its provision for other vulnerable groups in a clear light that revealed strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. An action plan based on my recommendations was then agreed at high level across key council departments.

Outcomes: Following my report, the council retained me to implement many of the recommended changes. Some quick wins included cross-cutting measures to fix the funding of the sheltered service for long enough to safely deliver sustainable change.  I supported the replacement of the council’s generic ‘scheme manager’ team with an older people’s ‘enhanced housing management team’ and an ‘older & vulnerable people’s support team’, the latter funded by adult social care. I then led the implementation of a new sheltered rent structure, with a new HB-eligible ‘enhanced housing management charge’, together with an optional charge for residents requiring support, fully rebated where applicable. On the property side, I led on the re-purposing of two obsolete sheltered schemes as homeless temporary accommodation and young people’s supported housing, together with investigations into possible upgrading  of certain schemes as extra-care. In the three years that I was eventually retained for, after many extensions, I undertook around a dozen projects connected with the advancement of older and vulnerable people’s housing in the borough.