Wealden District Council
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Wealden District Council’s HRA Older Persons Housing & Support Strategy

Chapter 1: Introduction and Purpose
Chapter 2: National Picture
Chapter 3: Local Picture
Chapter 4: Strategic Fit
Chapter 5: Making best use of our assets
Chapter 6: Support Services
Chapter 7: Meeting our Objectives


This strategy sets out the Council’s plan to ensure future provision of suitable, good quality council housing options for older residents in the district. It also explores how we can help meet any support needs of these older people It takes into account current supply, projections of need and demand, and older residents’ aspirations.

The aging population continues to present challenges for housing. People are living for longer and the housing needs and aspirations of the older population are diverse and continue to evolve and change.

Recent years have seen the growth in innovative approaches to older persons’ housing, such as extra care housing and assistive technology. It is now well recognised that improving the quality of housing alone will not meet older people’s aspirations. Good quality housing needs to be provided in conjunction with support services and with access to other services and facilities.

It is important that the housing and related services that we provide as a Council can meet the needs of older people now and in the future. A lack of suitable housing for older people can have financial implications. For the Council if properties become difficult to let and void times increase and for older people as it can affect their health and well-being and lead to social isolation.

What do we mean by older persons?

For the purposes of this Strategy older people are anyone aged 55+.

Who is the Strategy for?

The Strategy is for current and future housing applicants (including applicants for leasehold), council tenants and council Retirement Living leaseholders.


This strategy has 6 key priorities:

Priority 1: To provide older people with advice on the housing options and support available locally so they are able to make informed decisions.

Priority 2: To make the best use of existing housing stock.

Priority 3: To ensure the Council offers a range of affordable, suitable, good quality housing options for older people to rent and lease.

Priority 4: To allow older people to live independently in their homes for as long as they choose or it is safe to do so.

Priority 5: To provide and/or signpost (refer) older council tenants/leaseholders to appropriate support services.

Priority 6: To promote involvement in the community, well-being and healthy living.


Census 2011 data identified a significant growth in the population in England: from 2001 to 2011 the population increased by 3.6 million (7.2%). As well as this overall increase in population, one in six people in England and Wales are now aged 65 or over. The proportion of the population aged 65 and over is projected to increase further, with a direct impact on housing provision and related services. The Office of National Statistics Review of the UK Population July 2017 found:

  • In 2016 the population of the UK was 6 million, its largest ever.
  • The UK population is projected to continue growing, reaching over 74 million by
  • The population in the UK is getting older with 18% aged 65 and over and 4% aged 85 and over.
  • In 2016 there were 285 people aged 65 and over for every 1,000 people aged 16 to 64 years (“traditional working age”).
  • Births are continuing to outnumber deaths and immigration continues to outnumber emigration, resulting in a growing

National Policy

 The national strategy published in 2008 on housing for an ageing society Lifetime homes, lifetime neighbourhoods, identified the need to increase the housing options available to older people. It also encouraged local authorities to critically assess their sheltered (now called retirement living) housing stock.

The 2011 housing strategy Laying the foundations: a housing strategy for England highlighted the Government’s commitment to providing older people with greater choice and support to live independently. This included investment in funding through disabled facilities grants for aids and adaptations for older people to remain in their homes. The Government also invested in Firststop, which provides information and advice for older people.

In 2003 Supporting People was introduced to help vulnerable people in England and Wales live independently and help them to remain in their home. Funding was originally ring-fenced to unitary and county councils but this was removed in 2009, with funding cuts as a result of the Spending Review 2010.

In 2016, in light of the move to Universal Credit and the desire to ensure quality services focused on outcomes, the Government launched a consultation to look at the funding options for all supported accommodation, including sheltered/ retirement living. As part of this review the Government highlighted its commitment to protecting the most vulnerable, to protecting and boosting the supply of supported housing and ensuring it provides value for money. A follow-up consultation in 2017 proposed to fund supported accommodation in 3 different ways based upon the type of support i.e. short-term, long-term or sheltered and extra care housing. Following analyses of the consultation responses the Government have decided that the proposed regulatory approach is not the right step and as things currently stand they will be maintaining Housing Benefit for all supported housing.

Health and Housing

 Well-designed housing and related support services can enhance many aspects of life beyond physical health and mobility. As people age they are at greater risk of social exclusion and mental health problems such as depression and it has been estimated that poor or unsuitable housing costs the NHS £1.4b per annum. Accompanying the increase in life expectancy there continues to be an increase in older people who experience problems with daily living, along with a rise in people aged 65+ experiencing dementia.



The 2011 Census found that Wealden had a population of 148,915 people across 62,676 households.


All residents

Residents aged 65-74

Residents aged 75-84

Residents aged 85+

England &








South East








East Sussex
















The table above shows that Wealden has a higher proportion of older people than the national figure. Although there are slightly more females than males at 51.8% of the population it is fairly consistent across all age bands except those aged 85+, with 67% of residents aged 85+ being female.

The Office of National Statistics estimated that in 2016 the population in Wealden had increased to 158,054. It is estimated that it will continue to grow, reaching 190,657 by 2041. There will be a growth in all age bands between 2016 and 2041 with a 7% increase in those under 17 years, a 6% in those aged 18-64 years and a 63% increase in those aged 65+ (with the 65+ band there will be a 127% increase in those aged 85+). If the projections are correct those aged 65+ will make up 34.6% of Wealden’s population by 2041.

Supporting People

 Following a reduction in the supporting people grant in 2010 East Sussex County Council reviewed the services that the grant was funding locally resulting in a move to more floating support based services and less accommodation based ones. Services were re-tendered resulting in two floating support services, one for people aged under 65 and one for those aged 65+ both providing short-term support, with an additional long-term service commissioned in later years.

2009 saw a move away from resident based managers for our retirement living to modernise the service.

East Sussex County Council no longer receives a supporting people grant from central government instead it forms part of their general funding.

However, the county council sets aside money to fund supporting people type activities.

The Housing Strategy 2017- 2020 sits below the Council’s Corporate Plan and has three priorities:

  • Increasing housing
  • Improving housing
  • Providing housing advice and support for individuals and

The business plan delivers the housing strategic objectives in the following ways:

  1. Through the provision of new build council homes and the purchase of other homes to increase the supply of social housing in the
  2. Through maintaining all of our
  3. Through the funding of Officers via the Housing Revenue Account to work with individuals and communities for example the Tenant Involvement

Both documents refer to the provision of new homes, ensuring current supply is of good quality and ensuring access to advice and support.

The Financial Inclusion Strategy and Tenant Involvement Strategy further expand upon how we can help and engage tenants and leaseholders.

This strategy should be read in conjunction with Wealden’s Housing Strategy, HRA Business Plan, Wealden’s Older Persons Housing & Support Strategy (partnership strategy) and East Sussex County Council’s Housing and Support Strategy.

This HRA Older Persons Strategy has 6 key priorities as set out on page 2 of this document.

Priority 1: To provide older people with advice on the housing options and support available locally so they are able to make informed decisions.

Priority 2: To make the best use of existing housing stock.

Priority 3: To ensure the Council offers a range of suitable, affordable good quality housing options for older people to rent and lease.

Our Housing stock – Supply

General Needs Accommodation

The Council owns and manages 2921 rented properties across the 5 main towns in the District and in 30 of the 37 parishes. This is made up of 77% general needs properties broken down into 38% Flats,  52% Houses, 10% Bungalows.

We appreciate that many older households wish to remain in their own homes for as long as practicable rather than moving to specialist accommodation. To try and support this choice we work with partners to try and find the best solution for both the tenants and us as their landlord when that property no longer needs their needs. This might include aids and adaptations, support services to live independently within their own home or a move to an alternative property.

Accommodation for older people:

Age restricted properties

Within our supply of general needs housing the Council has a number of age restricted properties designated for people aged either 55+ or 60+ years.

These are spread across four sites and consist of:

  • 20 one and two bedroom flats at Helen Court, Hailsham completed in 2016 – for people aged 60+
  • 12 one bedroom bungalows at New Barn Close in Hailsham – for people aged 60+
  • 23 units at St Peters Mead in Rotherfield consisting of flats, bungalows and houses – for people aged 55+
  • 14 one and two bedrooms flats at Molesey Court, Uckfield – for people aged 55+

All of these properties benefit from a Lifeline service (see page 18).

There are very few vacancies within this stock with just two in 2017/18 and a re-let time of 21 days.


The Council has 10% of its stock as one, two and three bedroom bungalows. By virtue of the Council’s allocations policy and reinforced in our tenancy policy bungalows will only ever be allocated either to older people aged 60+ or disabled people.

Retirement Living

 The council has 411 rented properties, or 14% of its stock, as retirement living accommodation made up of bedsits, one, two and a very limited supply of three bedroom flats as well as one and two bedroom bungalows.

Our retirement living properties are spread across 11 retirement living courts with bungalows attached to a court in Heathfield, Horam, Crowborough and Buxted. All retirement living tenants benefit from:

  • Lifeline in all individual properties
  • Court Manager on site 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday
  • Use of communal gardens
  • Use of communal lounge/s and kitchens and laundry facilities

Many also benefit from:

  • On site activities such as arts and crafts, yoga, bowling, IT training and much
  • On site facilities such as guest room and hairdressers

At the time of writing we are building a new retirement living court in Uckfield which will consist of 67 homes.

Leasehold accommodation for older people

The Council has a number of retirement living properties available for leasehold available from as little as a 25% share up to 100%. Leasehold is currently available on 6 of the 11 courts and at the time of writing we have 78 leaseholders across these courts, with 34 of these being bungalows and 44 flats.

Extra Care

Although the Council does not own and manage any extra care housing we have worked closely with East Sussex County Council and partners and have delivered two schemes in the district. A 45 bedroom scheme in Hailsham called Bentley Grange and 29 bedroom scheme in Uckfield called Margaret House, both of which contain some homes for shared ownership.

Profile of occupants

The average age of all our council tenants is 57 years, with the average age in general needs properties being 54 years. 

Our Housing stock – Demand

Annually we have approximately 9% turnaround of stock with 250 new property lettings for our rented properties in 2017/18. Of these 209 were general needs lettings (including age restricted properties) and 41 retirement living.

We are continually reviewing the process involved in re-letting one of our properties in order to keep our void cost down and save money on loss of income and void works themselves. In recent years our void times have improved considerably.

Previously void times were much longer in retirement living often due to lack of demand for this type of accommodation but our investment (see pages 16- 17) in making these properties more suitable for older people’s needs now have contributed to our improved performance.

As would be expected vacancy rates vary, with some courts being much larger than others and so having more vacancies, re-let times also vary due to the courts location, on-site and local amenities.

The spike in the re-let times for Joan Hughes Court and Rumsey Court were caused by a difficult to let bedsits. At the time of writing works are under-way to eliminate our last remaining retirement living bedsits.

In terms of leasehold we hold a waiting list, with properties in the towns with access to shops and services being in higher demand than the more rural properties.

Profile of the Housing Register

The average age of those on the housing register is 47 years . It is not known how many of these want sheltered/retirement living or age-restricted type accommodation as this information isn’t collected. However, we do know that of 769 households on the housing register 41 have as their main band reason the need for sheltered/retirement housing with no other housing need identified and 16 are under occupiers living in social housing who want sheltered/retirement living.

Making best use of our stock

Although we are building new properties we are also losing general needs properties due to the Right to Buy. It is therefore essential that with a limited supply of council housing we ensure we make best use of these assets. We do this in a number of ways including, by tackling under-occupation and providing housing advice.


The Housing Needs Survey 2010 highlighted that approximately one in six social rented properties are under-occupied.

The Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2014 stated with regards to under occupation in Wealden generally “Considering the ageing nature of the population and indications of under-occupancy within the District, the Council should ensure homes are developed to encourage under-occupiers to relocate, with high quality in terms of design and management.”

We have developed new accommodation targeted at older people. This includes the purchase of Helen Court in Hailsham a complex of 20 flats for people aged 60+ years in 2016/17. The Council’s housing development team have also worked with Housing Associations to develop new housing schemes with priority given to under-occupying social tenants such as a scheme of 16 flats and 3 bungalows in Crowborough called the Rowans in 2011/12.

For working age tenants claiming benefits the under occupation charge or “bedroom tax” has meant that many need to move for financial reasons, however we know that the majority of our under-occupiers are over retirement age. For at least 12 years we have offered a Tenant Incentive Scheme to under-occupiers (subject to eligibility) to downsize and move to a property of the correct size for their households needs. In order to encourage households aged 60+ to consider sheltered/retirement living there is an additional incentive for moving into that type of accommodation. The scheme is reviewed every few years to ensure that it is meeting both tenant’s needs and ours in terms of the properties being released. Since 2000/01 we have released 165 properties through the scheme.

Housing advice

As a local authority managing our own housing and delivering housing advice in-house we have benefitted from ensuring all tenants are able to explore the best housing options for them.

Sheltered Housing Review

 In 2008 we undertook a review of our sheltered accommodation for older people to ensure that what we were providing meet tenants/leaseholders needs and aspirations. This was reviewed in 2015.

The review:

  • Identified that a number of our schemes were in low demand due to bedsit or studio type accommodation

and as a result a number of courts with bedsits have been decommissioned. In 2011 we decommissioned a court in Forest Row and one in Polegate. They were both demolished and replaced with developments of much needed family accommodation built and now managed by the Council. In 2015-16 we decommissioned two more retirement living courts in Hailsham and Uckfield. The Uckfield site (Grants Hill Court) is currently being re-developed into a larger modern retirement living court and the site at Old Hop Gardens has already been developed into general needs housing. Both sites are owned by the council.

In 2014-16 we undertook refurbishment works of another scheme in Buxted to address the very small one bedroom flats with a poor layout. The rest of the flats in the court were refurbished at the same time.

At the time of writing we are exploring options to remodel Streatfeild House, Uckfield and are proceeding with the remodelling of Joan Hughes Court in Polegate. These are the last two remaining courts which contain bedsits.

  • Highlighted a need to review how we brand and market our retirement living

and as a result of this piece of work we changed its name to retirement living from sheltered housing, created a separate brand for this type of accommodation with its own logo and separate and more interactive section of the website, updated signage etc. We also agreed to standardise the interior of the communal areas over a number of years to make them more modern.


Priority 4: To allow older people to live independently in their homes for as long as they choose or it is safe to do so.

Priority 5: To provide and/or signpost (refer)

older council tenants/leaseholders to appropriate support services.

Priority 6: To promote involvement in the community, well-being and healthy living.


Lifeline services are available to households in all tenures in Wealden. This service provides older residents with the peace of mind that they will be able to access support in an emergency.

All age restricted and retirement living properties are fitted with hard-wired lifeline services as standard and the cost of these are recovered via a service charge.

Court Manager

9 Court Managers work across the 11 courts. Their role is to make sure residents are safe, the building is secure, and that any emergencies and repairs are dealt with. They enable residents to live independently within their own homes whilst offering regular support planning and signposting/referring to relevant services where any support needs are identified.

Key areas of the Court Manager’s role are:

  • Regular contact with residents, including observing and assessing residents wellbeing, whilst encouraging independence and choice
  • Providing a quick response in emergencies
  • Facilitating/encouraging social activities
  • Assisting residents to secure services as required, e.g. home care agencies, benefits advice and social/special interest activities
  • Liaison with doctors and other health care providers
  • Overseeing the maintenance and safety of the building, including reporting repairs and carrying out regular inspections
  • Regular liaison, including Court walkabouts, with the elected RLRG (Retirement Living Residents Group) representative

The Court Manager is an onsite 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday. Outside of these hours lifeline provides out of hours cover to deal with emergencies and provides emergency cover during office hours if the Court Manager is not on site.

Minor and Major Adaptations

The Council continues to set aside a budget to help people live independently within their current home. The Council will carry out minor adaptations such as grab rails, lever taps at the tenants request and major adaptations that are practicable and reasonable based upon the referral of an Occupational Therapist through the Disabled Facilities Grant process.

Dementia training

Court Managers are trained in Best Practice in Dementia Care, with the last few just completing the training at the time of writing.

Activities for older people

Within all 11 of the retirement living courts a large range of voluntary activities exist with some delivered by the residents themselves and others by third party organisations. Some are regular weekly activities and others are one-off or run as a course.

Outside of the courts the council work with a large range of partners to deliver activities for Wealden residents which we actively promote to our tenants.

Some are open to all residents subject to eligibility such as free training via Street Learning, electric blanket testing, Wealden walks, fun and safety days, activity days, digital events etc. Others are targeted at specific groups such as swimming for the over 60’s at Freedom Leisure. Every year across East Sussex East Sussex County Council run an Older People’s day and produce a booklet of events for older people by local authority area so that older people can find out what activities are taking place locally.

This chapter sets out each one of our priorities and the actions we will take to meet them:

Priority 1: To provide older people with advice on the housing options and support available locally so they are able to make informed decisions.

We will meet this priority through:

  • Ensuring our website is up to date including maintaining a specialist area for retirement living
  • Signposting/referring tenants/leaseholders to the Council‘s Housing Options service for advice on what housing options exist, including options outside of Council owed
  • Ensuring older residents are financially included through the actions set out in our Financial Inclusion Strategy.
  • Promoting services designed to help encourage older people
  • Providing IT training in Retirement Living Courts where a need
  • Actively promoting the activities run at Retirement Living Courts and elsewhere including those specifically for older people.
  • Funding a Housing Solutions worker to support those needing a more intensive support service to find suitable accommodation to meet their

Priority 2: To make the best use of existing housing stock. We will meet this objective through:

  • Providing a Tenant Incentive Scheme to encourage and financially assist under occupying households and those requiring retirement living to move.
  • Actively marketing our accommodation options for older people to existing
  • Ensure adapted properties are re-let to people needing
  • When carrying out refurbishment works to retirement living properties ensure they meet current building regulations standards for accessibility level 1 – visitable dwellings.
  • When leasehold retirement living properties become vacant, the Council aims to buy them back in mixed tenure blocks, subject to funding being
  • Identify retirement living schemes for leasehold only

Priority 3: To ensure the Council offers a range of affordable, suitable, good quality housing options for older people to rent and lease.

We will meet this objective through:

  • Converting all bedsit/studio accommodation in Retirement Living Courts to one or two bedroom
  • Ensuring retirement living courts provide good value for money accommodation and related services.
  • Developing local lettings plans to help create balanced and mixed communities.
  • Developing a set of standards for new developments for older people, including meeting current building regulations standards for accessibility level 2- accessible and adapted
  • Exploring the feasibility of new council built homes meeting current building regulations standards for accessibility level
  • Provide new build homes meeting current building regulations standards for accessibility level 3 – wheelchair user dwellings, subject to demand.
  • Ensuring all housing designed for older people offer safe and secure Looking at the suitability of all bungalows for different groups of customers e.g. older people.
  • Looking at the feasibility of developing a programme to make existing bungalows suitable for both elderly and wheelchair users.
  • Exploring the need for future provision of older person’s accommodation, including additional retirement living courts and extra care accommodation both for rent and
  • Looking at how we can re-model the age-restricted properties including providing additional support services to ensure they meet the needs of older
  • Considering physical constraints for those with mobility problems accessing the building and their flat when refurbishing or building any new retirement living

Priority 4: To allow older people to live independently in their homes for as long as they choose or it is safe to do so.

We will meet this objective through:

  • Continuing to provide Housing Revenue Account funding to assist those needing minor and major
  • Exploring the possibility of providing floating support outside retirement living
  • Exploring the feasibility of new council built homes meeting current building regulations standards for accessibility level 1.
  • Ensuring the alarm call services are able to work using internet protocol technology once the digital switchover happens.
  • Exploring the provision of telehealth/telecare
  • Explore enhanced living services within retirement living courts to enable residents to stay within the court for longer.
  • Encourage older tenants living in general needs accommodation to use the council’s telecare provider for alarm and other
  • Funding a Housing Solutions Worker to ensure residents have assistance and support to access long term housing solutions that meet their

Priority 5: To provide and/or signpost (refer) older council tenants/leaseholders to appropriate support services.

We will meet this objective through:

  • Reviewing current provision of alarm equipment and support in retirement living and age-restricted properties ensuring there is a link to the wider health services.
  • Exploring what other telecare provision exists and whether there is a need for these additional services e.g. motion sensors, medical prompts and consider the feasibility of providing these e.g. practical and financial implications.
  • Considering how we could link age-restricted properties to retirement living court to ensure tenants benefit from the support and other services available at the courts.

Priority 6: To promote involvement in the community, well-being and healthy living.

We will meet this objective through:

  • Working with partners to deliver activities for older
  • Providing a range of activities in the retirement living courts to ensure health and wellbeing.
  • Actively encourage older non-retirement living tenants to attend activities in the retirement living
  • Promoting partners activities for older
  • Delivering our Tenant Involvement Strategy ensuring we offer a wider range of opportunities for tenants and leaseholders to get involved
  • Supporting the work of the Retirement Living Residents