Chapter 1: Purpose, Aim and Background
Chapter 2: Identifying Vulnerable Residents
Chapter 3: Supporting Vulnerable Residents
Chapter 4: Meeting our Objectives
The purpose of this strategy is to set out what might make a tenant or leaseholder in need of additional support (known as a vulnerability), highlight how we identify those that are in need of extra support and what we do to support these residents.
For the purpose of this strategy resident means a council tenant, A2 dominion tenant or a retirement living leaseholder.
What do we mean by, “in need of extra support” or “vulnerable”?
For the purposes of this Strategy, we have defined “vulnerable” as:
“A tenant or retirement living leaseholder who is aged eighteen years of age or over, and who is or may be by reason of physical or mental health, addiction, financial and/or digital, isolation, circumstances or other reason/s unable to take care of themselves or unable to protect themselves against harm or exploitation or is at risk of losing their tenancy.”
Some of our residents may be vulnerable due to the following reasons:
- Physical Health – including long-term illness or health conditions, hearing or vision impairments, mobility, communication impairment or neurological conditions such as dementia, short-term health conditions under treatment. Whether registered or registerable as disabled.
- Mental Health – including PTSD, social anxiety, depression.
- Addiction – including drug and alcohol abuse or gambling.
- Financial and/or digital exclusion – includes food insecurity, fuel poverty.
- Isolation – includes rural isolation.
- Social or welfare reasons – includes vulnerability due to anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse, being a care leaver, having been homeless, someone suffering bereavement or having caring responsibilities.
- Other – including social or behavioural (including neurodiversity such as autism, attention deficit disorder), dyslexia or learning disabilities or age, particularly very young or older residents. It would also cover where tenants/s are unable to or have limited ability to read or write.
Who is the Strategy for?
The Strategy is for both tenants (Council and A2 Dominion (a housing association whose homes we manage in Wealden)) and Wealden’s retirement living leaseholders.
The ultimate aim of this strategy is to ensure residents are supported to sustain their tenancy.
Our Council homes
As of May 2023, we currently own and manage 3020 homes across 35 of the 42 parishes within Wealden, with just under two thirds concentrated in the main towns of Hailsham, Crowborough, Heathfield, Polegate and Uckfield. The remainder of the stock is in the small hamlets and villages in rural locations. Of these 3020 homes, 24 are used for temporary accommodation for homeless households, 470 are retirement living for older people and the remaining 2522 are general needs properties.
There are also 64 retirement living leaseholders. In addition, the service manages eight properties for former rough sleepers and 27 properties on behalf of A2 Dominion (a Housing association) across two sites.
The turnover of stock is largely affected by the number of new homes being built. In recent years we average around 250 lettings per annum. In 2021/22 there were 296 lettings but in 22/23 there were just 217 and 12 mutual exchanges. Of these lettings 90 were existing tenants moving to alternative accommodation and 115 to new tenants. Up to a fifth of moves each year involve retirement living, with 50 in 22/23, with under a tenth of moves being to temporary accommodation with just 18 in 22/23.
We issue an average of four new retirement living leases per annum.
 The examples listed are not an exhaustive list.
Not everyone with a vulnerability will have a support need. However, it is essential that those that do, are identified quickly, to ensure that they receive the support and services necessary to maintain their tenancy.
We will identify vulnerable residents by the resident, family member or friend informing us of a support need. Our staff also receive training so that they can identify residents who might be vulnerable and in need of extra support.
Safeguarding concerns will be identified and referred to East Sussex County Council.
The housing service manages in-house the housing register for all households that require social housing whether that be council housing or Private Registered Provider/Housing Association homes.
All housing applicants, including those for retirement living (rented and leasehold) are assessed and any support needs identified. Applicants with high support needs may be referred on to East Sussex County Council for consideration of more specialist supported accommodation, such as extra care. Some housing applicants may also have existing support in place. Where a need is identified the Housing Options team will make referrals for additional support to appropriate services.
When a new tenant is nominated for a vacant council property, information is shared between housing teams to ensure that all staff involved with the resident are aware of any support needs or vulnerabilities of the customer. The sign-up process and 6-week visit for all new tenants is another opportunity to identify any support needs including any assistance required to help them sustain their tenancy. New tenants that could be financially vulnerable or at risk of financial vulnerability will be offered an appointment with our Tenancy Support Officer to ensure that they are receiving all the benefits to which they are entitled.
When a customer moves into Retirement Living, the Retirement Living Court Manager will produce a wellbeing assessment with the customer, and this will be reviewed regularly (see page 7). This identifies any support needs and how these will be met.
For most customers their support needs will be low-level and short-term and as such they will be referred for support to East Sussex Floating Support Service (ESFSS).
All leaseholders, like housing applicants for rented accommodation, will complete an application form and this can identify any support needs.
Prospective leasehold purchasers meet or have a telephone discussion from our Leasehold Officer prior to their purchase, which provides an opportunity to identify any support needs.
All leaseholders moving into Retirement Living will have a wellbeing assessment with the Retirement Living Court Manager (as detailed on pages6/7).
General Needs tenants
There are often many opportunities to identify tenants who might have support needs that develop after they move into their council accommodation. It is essential that we continue to maximise these opportunities in order to ensure tenants are able to sustain their tenancy. These include:
- Tenancy Audit visits/ Property condition checks and other visits by the Housing Officer including for reports or antisocial behaviour or breach of tenancy conditions.
- Visit by contractors to carry out repairs or other works including improvement works.
- Visit by other housing staff.
- Contact by third party e.g., concerns raised by neighbours/friends/relatives or other service provider including voluntary and statutory services.
- Referrals from other council services who have reason to believe a tenant is in need of additional support e.g., benefit service.
- Referrals from other service – this can include Brighton Housing Trust, adult social care, children’s services, Citizens Advice etc.
- Other intelligence – e.g., a complaint/s, certain types of repairs being requested, antisocial behaviour.
Retirement Living tenants and leaseholders
All Retirement Living residents will have wellbeing assessments developed with them at sign-up and reviewed on an annual basis or before then if a need arises. They are not care plans but identify any support needs the tenant may have in areas such as physical and emotional wellbeing. Relevant referrals and signposting will then be made as a result. The Court Manager will also collect practical information such as next of kin, GP details, how many calls the resident would like per week from the Court Manager and the networking activities that the resident would like to be involved with.
The Retirement Living Court Managers make regular welfare calls to all residents. These can be daily or weekly. Some residents decide to opt out of welfare calls, in which case the Manager will perform one weekly call through the system to check the equipment is working. Court Managers strongly encourage residents to take up regular welfare calls. The manager will also identify any additional needs (physical and mental health) and act accordingly. They also support residents to access to social activities.
The manager is on site regularly and this provides an ideal opportunity to identify any additional needs that a resident might have. Due to the fact that there is a communal lounge and a shared main entrance this provides an opportunity for other residents to identify and report any concerns to their court manager about another resident or the building.
All Retirement Living properties have a fixed lifeline service with pull cords and a speech module so that they can contact the lifeline service 24 hours a day in the event of an emergency such as a fall. Some residents are also issued with pendants if required.
The court manager will liaise with GP’s, Adult Social Care and other services as appropriate. This ensures their residents receive the support that they need to sustain their tenancy.
Temporary Accommodation tenants
Those placed in temporary accommodation may have already been referred for support to ESFSS (see page 10) by their Housing Options Officer. Our Temporary Accommodation Co-ordinator maintains contact with customers in temporary accommodation and will offer help to apply for benefits and ensure residents can access any additional support they need.
Why is it important that we identify vulnerable residents?
As well as ensuring that they maintain their tenancy/lease, it means that we can:
- Take account of known vulnerability factors in the provision of services and in decisions around tenancy management and enforcement.
- Assist vulnerable residents in accessing additional services that they may need.
- Record any known representatives who have consent to represent a vulnerable resident, or with power of attorney to act on the resident’s behalf.
- Consider any additional needs due to the vulnerability and make appropriate referrals to statutory agencies and other external partner support agencies.
- Make safeguarding referrals whenever needed.
- Ensure we maximise our in-house support staff to help those most in need.
The support needs of our residents vary considerably. Many will have a combination of support needs as opposed to one isolated issue. The way in which residents can be supported varies but this section outlines some of the ways we can help. Support may come in the form of a referral or signposting to another agency or assistance from staff within the housing service. Tenancy sustainment is the key priority for us as a housing provider.
The services available locally change regularly and so an East Sussex online directory has been developed. It details all the services available by type and the contact details for them and how referrals can be made. This is used by staff to ensure residents are able to access appropriate support.
When a support need is identified we will work closely with the resident to ensure that the right support for them is explored and delivered. Any decisions will be agreed with the resident.
In line with the Council’s Reasonable Adjustments Policy, we will ensure that residents can access our services in a format suitable to meet their needs.
What specialist Accommodation is available for Vulnerable Tenants?
We have eight units of accommodation for rough sleepers. These are known as Housing First units and come with specialist support including access to a range of other services delivered through a multi-agency approach to help the former rough sleeper. This support is currently provided by Southdown Housing Association.
We also have 2 units of temporary accommodation that have been adapted for disabled use, of which one is fully wheelchair accessible.
We have access to some specialist accommodation within the district. East Sussex County Council manage referrals to extra care to the two schemes in Wealden for older people in need of care and support. They also deal with referrals to accommodation for those with learning disabilities which also comes with onsite support, with two schemes in Wealden as well as some dispersed accommodation.
We have access to Refuge within the district and across the UK, which can be accessed by victims of domestic abuse who cannot stay in their current home.
What support is available?
The support provided will be based upon the resident’s support needs but can include, but is not limited to:
- Housing Advice/Options– If it is appropriate a resident might be given housing advice to consider the best housing solution for them if their needs have changed since they moved into their current home. We have in-house Housing Solutions Officers to ensure the best housing solutions are explored for those needing housing to meet their specific needs such as adapted accommodation.
- Aids and adaptations – The Council continues to provide funding to help people live independently within their current home. The Council is able to carry out minor adaptations in conjunction with the tenant such as grab rails, lever taps and major adaptations that are practicable and reasonable based upon the referral of an Occupational Therapist through the Disabled Facilities Grant process. We have an in-house Occupational Therapist to ensure an efficient service is delivered.
- Details of Local Charitable services – this is not an exclusive list but includes: those to support people with disabilities and their carers such as Care for the Carers, Possibility People, East Sussex Vision Support and East Sussex Association Hearing as well as Wealden Dementia Action Alliance.
- Wealden Citizens Advice play an important role in helping residents with advice, help debt management, to access vouchers for things such as food and fuel and household essentials.
- There are also a number of community fridges which can be accessed by anyone and are designed to prevent food waste. Wave Community Bank can help with savings, borrowings and budgeting.
- Referrals to other services –for example to the Adult Community Mental Health Team for assessment and support, to East Sussex Alcohol Service or East Sussex Drug & Alcohol Recovery Service (STAR) for drug and alcohol issues, to a Food bank for those who can’t afford to buy food. For those experiencing domestic abuse referral to Community Independent Domestic Violence Advisors Service (IDVAs) or ESFSS who provide short-term housing-related floating support. Referrals to mediation are made for suitable cases of anti-social behaviour where both parties agree. In addition, we work with many other organisations.
- Access to in-house support – We have staff who work with residents to help them apply for benefits and Discretionary Housing Payments. We also have specialist staff experienced in supporting complex cases including those that have experienced significant past trauma and as a result do not have the right skills to manage their lives independently. We also have Occupational Therapists to assess specific needs including exploring aids and adaptations to enable tenants to remain in their current accommodation. In addition, we have Housing Solutions Officers to ensure the best housing solutions are explored for those needing housing to meet their specific needs such as adapted accommodation. In addition, we also work with other teams within the council to support our residents.
- Details of financial support – This includes Discretionary East Sussex Support Scheme (which changes regularly) but can assist with basic needs such food and utility costs. Discretionary Housing Support and Household Support Fund.
- Details of events and services – Examples include for digital support details of the services that the library service can offer. Benefit outreach sessions to increase awareness and take-up of benefits. Information on free courses provided through Street Learning.
- Information – for example on East Sussex Community Information Service which details what is going on and the services available locally: Home | ESCIS.
- Partnership working – even when a referral is made, we will often work in partnership with that agency to support the resident for example working with the police in cases of antisocial behaviour or if a resident is/suspected to be the victim of exploitation (such as cuckooing/modern slavery).
- Specialist support – for example for former rough sleepers placed in Housing First accommodation.
How can we ensure effective monitoring of those with support needs?
It is essential that those with support needs are identified on our housing management system so that Officers who are in contact with the resident is aware of their specific needs and can ensure that any services/contact with them is tailored to take into account these needs.
In addition, we have a separate IT solution for our Retirement Living accommodation which records details of wellbeing assessments and these are used to ensure the specific needs of those in retirement living are meet.
Our aim is to ensure that our residents are able to sustain their accommodation. National research has shown that the benefits of early intervention are wide and include financial and social benefits. Through ensuring vulnerable residents are supported appropriately, we can ensure accommodation is sustained and well managed. This not only improves the health and wellbeing of our residents but also leads to cost savings for the housing service.
It is essential that as a service we are proactive in identifying vulnerable residents at the earliest opportunity.
Who is responsible for delivering our aim?
All of our staff are responsible for identifying any resident that may be potentially vulnerable.
We will deliver our aim through the following objectives:
- Objective 1: identifying vulnerable residents
We will ensure that residents can self-refer, be referred and that housing staff and contractors use every opportunity to identify vulnerable residents.
We will meet this objective through:
- Promoting all methods of contact for our residents so that we provide a variety of ways for residents to let us know that they need extra support.
- Following up any concerns raised by relatives, friends or neighbours about a potentially vulnerable resident.
- Explore ways to collect and keep up to date information about our residents.
- Using standardised forms at sign-up and the 6-week visit
- Using standardised tenancy audit forms
- Completing risk assessments for all cases of antisocial behaviour
- Utilising wellbeing assessments in Retirement Living accommodation.
- Ensuring housing officers and Retirement Living court managers have access to standardised referral forms.
- Ensuring the recording of vulnerability is standardised and recorded on our Housing Management system and regularly monitored and updated.
- As part of the sign-up carrying out a pre-tenancy assessment
- Working closely with contractors who are visiting our tenants’ homes
Objective 2: Sign-posting
We will sign-post/refer vulnerable residents to appropriate support services and also promote general awareness of the services available locally that can be accessed without a referral from us.
We will meet this objective through:
- Use of a county wide service directory
- Sharing of information on services for example through team meetings
- Providing online training to housing applicants to help them manage and sustain their future tenancy.
- Continuing to fund aids and adaptations for council tenants’
- Funding a Housing Solutions Worker to ensure residents have assistance/support to access appropriate long-term housing solutions.
- Ensuring adapted properties are re-let to people needing adaptions.
- Attending and being active partners in local partnership meetings such as Joint Action Group and Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference
- Reviewing our Anti-Social Behaviour policy and procedure on a regular basis
- Providing funding to Wealden Citizens Advice to ensure that they are able to deliver debt and welfare advice including benefit maximisation to residents.
- Offering a Sanctuary scheme to provide safety measures for those experiencing domestic violence.
- Working with East Sussex County Council to ensure we continue to have a Refuge in the district.
- Funding the £10 set up cost of basic accounts through the East Sussex Credit Union (ESCU) for residents unable to fund this themselves.
- Working with ESCU to promote their services i.e., affordable savings accounts, loans and basic accounts.
- Encouraging vulnerable tenants living in general needs accommodation to use the council’s telecare provider for alarm and other services as well as other assistive technologies.
- Supporting and promoting money management, wellbeing and IT course offered by partners including those run via Street Learning
- Providing awareness and publicity of services tenants and leaseholders can access without the need for us to refer such as Citizens Advice, IT for You, Street Learning etc.
Objective 3: Tenancy Sustainment
We will ensure that most vulnerable tenants are supported by our Tenancy Sustainment Officer. In addition, we will utilise the services provided by our Tenancy Support Officer and/or Housing Solutions Officers and/or in-house Occupational Therapist.
We will meet this objective through:
- Prompt referral to the Tenancy Sustainment Officer via an internal referral and screening process.
- Prompt referral to Tenancy Support Officer and ensuring that new tenants that are financially vulnerable or at risk of financial vulnerability are supported to claim all the benefits to which they are entitled.
- Prompt referral to Housing Solutions for those needing housing to meet their specific needs.
- Prompt referral to Occupational Therapist for those needing aids and adaptations to meet their specific needs.
- Ensuring tenants are involved in their support planning/wellbeing assessments to address any areas of concern.
- Working collaboratively with other Wealden departments to identify the most vulnerable tenants such as the benefits and enforcement teams.
- Ensuring officers have up to date and relevant Safeguarding knowledge and training.
- Working in close partnership with key agencies such as CAB, Adult Social Care, Children’s Services and Mental Health services.
- Ensuring tenants are provided with an opportunity to provide feedback on the support they have received to further shape the delivery of the service.
Objective 4: Training
We will ensure that Housing staff have the necessary knowledge, training, and skills for their role.
We will meet this objective through:
- Ensuring all housing staff complete training on identifying vulnerable adults and children – safeguarding training
- Ensuring all frontline housing staff undertake trauma informed practice training.
- Ensuring all housing staff receive training on equality and diversity.
- All housing staff to undertake compulsory online training for all staff including the new neurodiversity training.
- Ensure all housing staff attend regular refresher training.
- Providing other appropriate and timely training for housing staff e.g., on new legislation.
The range of factors which can lead to vulnerability are diverse. Residents might have a number of factors which make them vulnerable and in need of extra support from us as their housing provider and/or other support services, either statutory or voluntary. There are many opportunities for the Council, its contractors and others to identify where a tenant or leaseholder is vulnerable and in need of extra support. We utilise all opportunities available to us to ensure that those needing extra support are identified as soon as possible, in order to limit the impact both to the individual, other residents and on the council.