Chapter 1: Introduction, Purpose and Background
Chapter 2: Strategic Fit
Chapter 3: Identifying Vulnerable Tenants and Retirement Living Leaseholders
Chapter 4: Supporting Vulnerable Tenants and Leaseholders
Chapter 5: Meeting our Objectives
This is the first Strategy produced by the housing service to set out how we will identify and help support our vulnerable tenants and leaseholders.
What do we mean by vulnerable tenants and leaseholders?
For the purposes of this Strategy “vulnerable” is defined as:
“A tenant or leaseholder (excluding Wealden Independent Living Scheme tenants) who is aged eighteen years of age or over, and who is or may be by reason of financial problems or other circumstances, mental or physical disability, drug and/or alcohol abuse unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against harm or exploitation or is at risk of losing his or her tenancy.”
The above definition sets out that our tenants maybe be vulnerable due to five reasons:
1) Physical Health
2) Mental Health
3) Drug & Alcohol abuse
4) Financial problems (including financial exclusion)
5) Circumstances can include being vulnerable due to anti-social behaviour or domestic violence or being a care leaver.
Who is the Strategy for?
The Strategy is for both tenants (Council and A2 Dominion) and Retirement Living leaseholders.
The ultimate purpose of this strategy is to ensure tenants and retirement living leaseholders are supported to sustain their tenancy. The impact of this will likely lead to cost savings for Wealden’s Housing Service in terms of dealing with tenancy enforcement, evictions, rents arrears etc.
We will provide support by ensuring that we meet the following objectives:
1) There is a consistent approach to supporting vulnerable tenants and settling them into their new home.
2) Housing staff use every opportunity to identify vulnerable tenants and leaseholders.
3) Vulnerable tenants and leaseholders are sign-posted/referred to appropriate support services.
As at June 2018 we currently manage 2921 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 2921 homes, 20 are used for temporary accommodation for homeless households, 411 are retirement living units and the remaining 2490 are general needs properties.
15 properties from within our stock are let to Southdown Housing Association for vulnerable tenants; these are referred to as WILS tenancies (Wealden Independent Living Scheme). There are also 78 retirement living leaseholders. In addition, the service manages 27 properties on behalf of A2 Dominion across two sites.
Our Lettings (turnover of stock)
We let approximately 250 council properties per year of which around 150 are let to new council tenants (the remainder include existing council tenants that are transferring home and mutual exchanges). Of these lettings around 200 are to general needs housing and 50 to retirement living.
National Picture and Local Picture
The 2011 Census found that Wealden had a population of 148,915 people across 62,676 households. Wealden has a higher profile of older people than the national figure, with 16.9% of residents being aged 65+. 11.8% of these are aged 65-74, 7.7% are aged 75-84 and 3.4% 85+.
The District’s population is made up of slightly more females than males at 51.8% of the population and this is fairly consistent across all age bands except those aged 85+, with 67% of residents aged 85+ being female.
The 2011 Census highlighted that Wealden was not as ethnically diverse as the national profile with just 2.5% of the Wealden population being from ethnic backgrounds compared to a national average figure of 14%.
Within Wealden the 2011 Census found that 17.5% of residents had a limiting long-term illness of which 7.3% day-to-day activities were limited a lot and 10.2% day-to-day activities were limited a little. These figures are very comparable to the national profile.
In terms of mental health the prevalence of psychotic disorders nationally is 0.40% in Hailsham and surrounding areas (Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford CCG – EHS CCG) it is 0.47% and in the rest of Wealden (High Weald, Lewes and Havens CCG- HWLH CCG) it is 0.28%. When looking at severe mental illness the national figure of prevalence is 0.90% and the EHS CCG figure is 1.07% and HWLH CCG figure 0.86%. We can see that mental health in the district is slightly worse than the national profile with the far south of the district having slightly higher figures than the rest of the district.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
National research on alcohol dependency shows that there is considerable variation across age and gender: males are much more likely to have alcohol dependence, especially those aged 25-54 years. The highest prevalence of alcohol dependence in females is in the youngest age group of those aged 18-24 years.
Within East Sussex national research highlights that in line with the national picture there is a wide variation with 0.30% of females aged 55+ being alcohol dependent to 3.60% of males aged 25-34 years.
National data shows that:
- Around 1 in 11 (9.0%) adults aged 16 to 59 had taken a drug in the last year.
- Around 1 in 5 (19.8%) adults aged 16 to 24 had taken a drug in the last year.
- Around 1 in 23 (4.3%) adults aged 16 to 59 had taken a drug in the last month, while around 1 in 11 (9.5%) young adults aged 16 to 24 had done so.
- Around one-third (34.6%) of adults aged 16 to 59 had taken drugs at some point during their lifetime.
- Around 1 in 29 (3.5%) of adults aged 16 to 59 had taken a Class A drug in the last year,
- Class A drug use among 16 to 24 year olds has been increasing since 2011/12.
- 2.1 per cent of all adults aged 16 to 59 were classed as frequent drug users (had taken a drug more than once a month).
- As with drug use in general, young adults (16 to 24 year olds) were more likely to be frequent drug users than the wider age group (16 to 59 year olds), at 4.1 per cent.
- As in previous years, younger people were more likely to take drugs than older people. The level of any drug use in the last year was highest among 16 to 19 year olds (16.9%) and 20 to 24 year olds (21.8%). The level of drug use was much lower in the oldest age group (2.0% of 55 to 59 year olds).
- Men were around twice as likely to take drugs as women. Around 1 in 9 (11.8%) men aged 16 to 59 had taken any drug in the last year, compared with around 1 in 16 (6.2%) women.
- Increased levels of drug use were associated with a higher frequency of visits to pubs, bars and nightclubs.
- People living in urban areas reported higher levels of drug use than those living in rural areas. Around 1 in 11 (9.4%) people living in urban areas had used any drug in the last year, compared with around 1 in 14 (7.0%) of those living in rural areas.
- People with self-reported higher levels of happiness were less likely to have taken drugs.
National research has highlighted that those at greater risk of being financially excluded are social tenants, with 63% at risk of financial exclusion. The result is that they are more likely to experience financial problems because they have to pay more for goods and services and have less choice over financial services. Further national research has also shown that 37% of those who are digitally excluded are social tenants. For more information please see our Financial Inclusion Strategy.
The Wealden area remains one of the safest places to live and work in the UK. The reported crime figures for 2015/16 shows that in Wealden there were 30.8 offences per 1,000 population compared to an East Sussex figure of 51.1, a South East Figure of 59.2 and a England and Wales figure of 66.3
The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimated that 26% of women and 15% of men aged 16 to 59 had experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16, equivalent to an estimated 4.3 million female and 2.4 million male victims. An estimated 7.5% of women (1.2 million) and 4.3% of men (713,000) experienced domestic abuse in the last year. For both men and women, those in the younger age groups were more likely to be victims of domestic abuse in the last year than those in the older age groups.
It is widely acknowledged that domestic violence largely goes unreported and the Office of National Statistics crime figures for 2015/16 reflect this with violence crimes accounting for 1.8% of all reported crimes and within this domestic violence accounting for just 0.3% of all reported crimes.
Nationally antisocial behaviour accounts for approximately 24% of all reported crimes and in-line with this figure within Sussex it accounts for 25% of all reported crimes.
The Council has a duty to ensure that the social services and the housing department work together to ensure the accommodation needs of 18-21 year old care leavers who have been Looked After by East Sussex County Council are met (the responsibility for 16 and 17 year olds remains with East Sussex County Council). The Leaving Care Team will inform the Housing Options Team up to 4 months before a care placement ends. This gives the Housing Options Team and the Leaving Care Team time to find appropriate accommodation which might include council housing. The Leaving Care Team will help the care leaver with the practical issues of becoming independent and support this transition, with each Care Leaver over 21 (who has requested support) having a Personal Adviser allocated to them. This will include short pieces of work to support a young person with their tenancy, budgeting, access to training etc.
In reality very few people leaving care are rehoused in social housing since arrangements within East Sussex County Council exist allowing direct referral of care leavers aged 16-25 to support settings.
In terms of our own tenants we know that:
- 61% are female
- the average age of our tenants is 57 years
With regards to ethnicity the vast majority of our tenants are white British/Irish/Other representing 69% of all our tenants.
- 0.5% are Gypsy Romany or Irish travellers
- 0.8% are Asian origin – British/Indian/Bangladeshi
- 0.4% are Black – African/Caribbean
- 0.1% are of Chinese origin
- 0.3% are mixed ethnicity
These figures represent those that have declared their ethnicity to us and so the actual figure, particularly for Gypsy/Roma/Traveller is likely to be far higher. It is worth noting that we do not hold ethnicity information on 30% of our tenants.
In terms of disability:
- 2.8% have mental health issues
- 0.6% have impaired mobility
- 1.7% have impaired hearing
- 1.2% have impaired vision
- 0.6% have impaired speech
- 0.7% have learning difficulties
- 7% have some other form of disability
This is likely to be an underrepresentation as not all tenants will disclose this personal information to us. It is also worth noting that some tenants have multi –disabilities.
The STAR survey 2017 found that around a quarter of tenanted households (23%) have debts (this is much lower at 6% for retirement living leaseholders) and 15% prefer not to disclose this information. 15% have credit card debts, 9% loans from bank/credit union, 8% catalogue or store cards with 7% a utility bill and 7% rent and/or council tax arrears, 3% other and 2% payday loans and an additional 2% loans from a doorstep lender. Of those with debts 2% have debts of £499 or less, 6% debts between £500 and £2,000, 5% debts between £2,000 and £5,000, 5% have debts over £5,000 with 19% preferred not to disclose this information.
Within our stock there are 15 Wealden Independent Living Scheme (WILS) tenancies. WILS aims to provide a supported housing service for vulnerable people including those with mental health problems and/or learning difficulties to assist them to maintain a self-contained tenancy within the community. Southdown Housing Association is commissioned to operate and manage the service on behalf of the council and Social Services ‘Supported Accommodation Team’. The council lease accommodation to Southdown Housing Association who in turn offers a tenancy to a housing applicant who has support needs. The accommodation is dispersed across Wealden and is generally in the form of self-contained single person flats. Southdown undertakes full housing management responsibilities on behalf of the tenant.
The range of factors which can lead to vulnerability are diverse and we provide a range of housing options to try and meet some of these diverse needs. However, people’s needs change and as such officers need to be provided with appropriate ongoing training to help them identify and support vulnerable tenants and retirement living leaseholders.
The illustration below shows where this Strategy sits amongst the current housing related strategic documents.
The Housing Strategy 2017- 2020 is informed by the Council’s Corporate Plan and has three priorities:
- Increasing housing supply.
- Improving housing quality.
- Providing housing advice and support for individuals and communities.
This HRA Business Plan seeks to deliver the Housing Strategy’s priorities 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 district.
2. Through maintaining all of our stock.
3. Through the funding of Officers to work with individuals and communities for example the Tenant Involvement Team.
Our plans and strategies aim to support individuals and communities. This Strategy should be read in conjunction with the Financial Inclusion strategy and associated action plan which sets out how we will help those that are vulnerable due to being financial and/or digitally excluded.
The Housing service still manages in-house both the housing register for all households that require social housing as well as the council’s own housing stock.
All housing applicants including those for retirement living leasehold are assessed at the point of applying for housing to see whether they have any support needs so that these can be put in place as soon as possible. Any that have high support needs will be considered for schemes such as WILS (see page 4) or supported accommodation or specialist service options e.g. extra care.
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.
All tenants moving into retirement living will have a support plan produced for them by the Retirement Living Court Manager.
All leaseholders like housing applicants for rented accommodation have to complete an application form and this aims to identify any support needs.
Once a vacancy for leaseholder occurs any prospective purchasers would be interviewed. This provides an opportunity to identify any support needs.
All leaseholders moving into retirement living will have a support plan produced for them by the Retirement Living Court Manager.
Existing tenants and leaseholders
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
- Other visits by housing staff
- Visits by repairs staff or other housing service contractors to carry out works
- Contact by third party e.g. concerns raised by neighbours/friends/relatives or other service provider including voluntary and statutory bodies
Retirement living tenants and leaseholders
All tenants and leaseholders support plans are developed with them at sign-up and reviewed on an annual basis or before then if a need arises. These support plans (depending on the detail) may involve referral to other providers. They are not care plans but set out practical information such as next of kin, GP details, how many calls the tenant/leaseholder would like per week from the court manager and the networking activities that the tenant/leaseholder would like to be involved with. In delivering the support plan the Retirement Living Court Manager may make referrals to other providers.
The Court Managers make daily morning calls to all tenants and leaseholders to check that they are ok. Some opt out of daily calls as part of their support plan, in which case they will receive as a minimum a weekly call.
All retirement living properties have a fixed lifeline service and where needed tenants are issued with pendants with 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.
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 to Homeworks by their Housing Options Officer. The Homeworks service is funded by East Sussex County Council and can support people aged 16-59 in East Sussex who are homeless, at risk of homelessness and those who are experiencing problems around staying in their accommodation. Homeworks will support them where able to ensure they can sustain their tenancy in Temporary Accommodation. This may include help to move on to either an offer of social rent accommodation, private rented accommodation or possibly supported accommodation.
There is a Co-ordinator who maintains contact with those in temporary accommodation. The Officer will complete a housing benefit form with them and chase for outstanding information to ensure as far as possible that tenants don’t get into rent arrears. The Officer manages the blocks and remains the main point of contact if they are experiencing any issues in the temporary accommodation.
The support needs of our tenants and leaseholders vary considerably. Many will have a combination of support needs as opposed to one isolated issue. The way in which tenants and leaseholders 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 sign-posting to another agency or assistance from within the housing service and from its staff. Tenancy sustainment is the key priority for us as a housing provider.
We continue to work very closely with partner organisations to protect our tenants and leaseholders both formally through groups such as Joint Action Group (JAG) and Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) and informally.
The services available 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 tenants and leaseholders are able to access appropriate support.
Housing Advice – If it is appropriate the household might also be given housing advice to consider the best housing solution for them if their needs have changed since they moved into their current home.
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.
Local Charitable services – Local voluntary services exist to support people with disabilities and their carers these include Care for the Carers and Possibility People.
If an officer believes that a tenant or leaseholder has a mental illness they will be referred to the Adult Community Mental Health Team. If appropriate they might also be given the details of local charities and support services.
All Retirement Living Court Managers are trained in best practice in dementia care. This will help them identify and support those with dementia living with their courts or the associated bungalows outside them.
Drug and Alcohol abuse
If a tenant or leaseholder is identified by an officer as having drug or alcohol problems referrals will be made to East Sussex Alcohol Service or East Sussex Drug & Alcohol Recovery Service (STAR) if they are ready to get help. They may also be given the details of the local charities that exist.
Financial problems (including financial exclusion)
We have a Financial Inclusion Strategy which should be read in conjunction with this strategy. The aims of the strategy are to:
- Help tenants and leaseholders access digital services
- Help tenants and leaseholders with access to financial services and financial capability
- Develop the skills of tenants and leaseholders including employment skills
When a tenant is experiencing financial issues they might be sign-posted/referred to one of the following:
Tenancy Support Officer – Within the Income Team, the service employs a Tenancy Support Officer who will work with tenants to help them apply for benefits and Discretionary Housing Payments. If their needs are greater than this referrals will be made to Wealden Citizens Advice for money and/or debt advice.
Wealden Citizens Advice – we have a close working relationship and a corporate service level agreement with Wealden Citizens Advice. They will work with residents to help them with budgeting including reducing outgoings, dealing with priority and non-priority debt, repayments rescheduling, getting debts written off and much more.
East Sussex Credit Union (ESCU) – ESCU offer basic bank accounts to residents and where a tenant is unable to afford the cost of setting up this account the Council will cover the costs. They can also offer affordable loans and savings.
Discretionary East Sussex Support Scheme – DESSS is continually changing but for some customers can assist with basic needs such as furniture, food and utility costs.
Homeworks/STEPS – Homeworks and STEPS provide assistance to help and support households to live independently, with Homeworks primary focus being to prevent homelessness. Homeworks work with 16-64 years olds and STEPS 65+
Circumstances leading to vulnerability
Antisocial behaviour (ASB) – an individual or household might be vulnerable due to ASB against them. The Housing Service has an ASB policy and procedure which outlines how we will support these households. A risk assessment is carried out by the Housing Officer as necessary to highlight those that might need extra support and someone scoring high on the assessment would be referred immediately to the police. For lower level ASB referrals might be made to other services such as the mediation service.
Domestic Violence – If a tenant or leaseholder has suffered domestic violence the options will be discussed with them and could include a number of the following: sanctuary measures to their existing property to make it secure to remain there, a move to a refuge whilst alternative accommodation is secure, housing advice, and referral to the police and/or East Sussex Domestic Abuse Service.
Exploitation – it is possible that an individual tenant or leaseholder could be subject to exploitation. For example the Council must be alert to cuckooing or the potential for someone to become a victim of modern slavery. Alongside partners within the Wealden Strategic Partnership action will be taken to tackle all forms of exploitation.
Other protective characteristics
Other characteristics that make an individual or household vulnerable could include ethnicity or religion. The support options could include referrals to:
Specialist services – for example Sompriti for BME households.
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 Orchard.
We have recently purchased new software for our Retirement Living accommodation which will mean the support plans and support needs of residents will be easier to record and the plans much more accessible and easier to update.
There is an ongoing long-term arrangement with Southdown Housing Association that 15 properties are set aside for vulnerable tenants. Southdown provide intensive support for up to two years, ensuring that at the end of this time the tenant is capable of sustaining a tenancy unsupported. The scheme is very successful and very few tenancies fail due to the intensive support provided by Southdown. Once people are able to live without support the tenancy will be put into their name.
Our aim is to ensure that our tenants and leaseholders are able sustain their tenancy/lease. National research has shown the benefits of early intervention which are wide and include financial benefits and social benefits. Through identifying and ensuring vulnerable tenants and leaseholders are supported appropriately we can ensure tenancies/leases are sustained and well managed leading to cost savings for the housing service in terms of dealing with tenancy enforcement, evictions, rents arrears and much more.
It will also improve the health and wellbeing of our tenants and leaseholders which can lead to a reduction in antisocial behaviour and enhanced willingness to engage with their community and the Council.
It is essential that as a service we are proactive in identifying vulnerable tenants and retirement living leaseholders at the earliest opportunity to minimise the risk to the service (both financial and staff safety), other residents and the “vulnerable” person themselves.
Who is responsible for delivering our aims?
Housing Options Officers and Housing Officers are primarily responsible for identifying vulnerable households and referring them to appropriate support. As such appropriate and ongoing training is provided. However, after moving into a council property any visiting council officer or housing services contractor should flag-up to the Housing Officer anyone that they believe is vulnerable so that the Housing Officer can visit and make any necessary referrals/sign-posting. All contractors are trained in safeguarding and are DBS checked. Any issues identified by them come via their Contract Manager to Housing Property Services Manager or Senior Administration Officer (Property Services).
Priority 1: There is a consistent approach to supporting vulnerable tenants and settling them into their new home.
We will meet this objective through:
- Using standardised forms at sign-up and the 6 week visit
- Moving to electronic sign-ups via IPads
- Ensuring housing officers and court managers have access to standardised referral forms
- Ensuring the recording of vulnerability is standardised and recorded on Orchard and regularly monitored
- Funding a Tenancy Support Officer within the Housing Service
- Continuing to fund aids and adaptations for council tenants’
- Ensuring adapted properties are re-let to people needing adaptions
- Providing online training to housing applicants to help them manage and sustain their future tenancy
Priority 2: Housing staff use every opportunity to identify vulnerable tenants and leaseholders.
We will meet this objective through:
- As part of the sign-up carrying out a pre-tenancy assessments
- Ensuring all housing officers and other front line staff have generic training on identifying vulnerability
- Ensuring all housing staff complete training on identifying vulnerable adults
- Ensuring all housing staff receive training on equality and diversity
- Providing other appropriate and timely training for housing staff e.g. on new legislation
- Attending and being active partners in local partnership meetings such as Joint Action Group and Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference
- Funding a Housing Solutions Worker to ensure residents have assistance/support to access appropriate long term housing solutions
- Exploring the provision of providing council accommodation to meet the needs of complex homeless households known as “Housing First”
Priority 3: Vulnerable tenants and leaseholders are sign-posted/referred to appropriate support services.
We will meet this objective through:
- Maintaining access to an up to date Support Directory, ensuring the Support Directory is online for staff and tenants/leaseholders to access
- Reviewing our Anti-Social Behaviour policy and procedure every 3 years
- Providing funding to Wealden Citizens Advice to ensure that they are able to deliver a money advice service to tenants and leaseholders
- Continuing to run 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 tenants and leaseholders unable to fund this themselves
- Working with ESCU to promote their services i.e. affordable savings accounts, loans and basic accounts
- Exploring the option of providing more intensive housing management to clients where other services are not available
- Encouraging vulnerable tenants living in general needs accommodation to use the council’s telecare provider for alarm and other services
- Exploring the use of new technology i.e. telecare and telehealth services
- Providing online training to help tenants and leaseholders manage and sustain their tenancy
- Supporting and promoting money management courses offered by partners including those run via Street Learning