A Housing Service Fit For The Future

by Melissa Clark

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Bield ResidentsA pioneering service to remodel traditional sheltered housing is to be further expanded across Scotland.

Bield, Scotland’s leading social care and housing provider, underpinned its role as an innovator in the sector by taking the decision to become the first landlord in Scotland to proactively modernise all of its sheltered housing services and to offer instead a new Retirement Housing service.

Bield believes its Retirement Housing provides housing and tenancy support in specially designed accommodation that is affordable, sustainable and better suited to the individual.

The new service was initially launched across 19 Bield developments in Edinburgh, Fife and Argyll & Bute on April 1 this year. Learning on the experience from the first services to move to this service, Bield is now driving forward with a roll out of the model across 32 developments in 10 other regions over the next year.

By 2015, 79 Bield developments across Scotland will deliver the Retirement Housing model.

Amanda Miller, Bield’s Director of Housing Services, said the success of the bold initiative will be closely viewed by all in the social housing sector.

She said: “Sheltered housing has been at the forefront of Bield’s services for more than 40 years.

“But the way we look after our older people is changing. In addition, older people are living longer – and want to remain in their own homes and receive personalised services.

“As part of this emerging trend, local authorities are also changing their approach to sheltered housing and are increasingly moving away from funding these services. Funding from local authorities and Housing Support grants also differs across Scotland, making it difficult to operate a consistent sheltered housing model.

“In recognising these factors, we realised this created the perfect opportunity to review and adapt our sheltered housing to ensure we provide housing and tenancy support services that are affordable and available long into the future

“Retirement Housing allows us to move away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach and confusing funding structure, to give people a personalised tenancy service that is tailored to meet their specific needs.”

In developing the new model, Bield consulted with a comprehensive range of interested parties, including local authorities, tenants and tenants’ representatives, to understand and to address the important tenancy and housing support issues that would impact on those living in existing sheltered housing.

In addition, a six month implementation and consultation phase is carried out at each development, which includes information meetings to outline the changes and the offer of one-to-one sessions with individual tenants to determine whether they require additional housing or personalised care and/or support.

Bield also found that helping to create Tenant Focus Groups at developments has proved extremely beneficial for all parties. The tenant lead groups provide a sounding board during the change process but additionally provide an opportunity for tenants to get together and make decisions about what happens at their development such as social events and activities.

While for many tenants, the move to Retirement Housing is barely noticeable, the new service does involve changes in staff provision and responsibilities which although providing many improvements, impacts on the ability to provide on call/morning call cover and the organisation of social activities.

Bield has responded by developing a bespoke, optional and free daily contact service called The Sure Call Service delivered by Bield Response 24 (BR24), who also manage the Bield’s emergency alarm system where there is no onsite staff and when staff are off duty. Tenants receive a call at a pre-agreed time – and if there is no response to the first two calls, BR24 will either contact local staff or out of hours family contacts.

Amanda Miller added: “Although change can always be upsetting, the response and reaction from both our own staff and the tenants in properties where the service has been implemented has been largely positive.  We have examples of tenants being energised by having more opportunity to create social committees and plan events that wouldn’t have happened in the past. While The Sure Call Service has provided security and peace of mind to tenants and their families.

“We are now looking forward to seeing our Retirement Housing service roll out across Scotland.

“For more than 40 years we have been delivering high quality services to help improve the lives of Scotland’s older people.

“We believe Retirement Housing embodies our approach to deliver creative, alternative options to face the growing demands of an ageing Scottish, enabling them to remain independent for as long as possible – the very essence of our ‘Free to Be’ vision.”

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