Aberdeenshire Council has started to implement controversial changes to its sheltered housing service, which will see new arrangements introduced for cleaning and warden cover in all of the sheltered housing complexes run by the authority.
Councillors on the Social Work and Housing Committee approved the measures earlier this year, which officials describe as being ‘high quality’ and ‘robust’. The changes will see fixed warden cover being removed from complexes and replaced by teams of mobile housing officers.
Complexes in Garioch and Formartine were the first to move to the new arrangements on Monday 7 November. Changes will be now phased in throughout sheltered housing schemes in Buchan, Kincardine and Mearns, Marr and Banff and Buchan. Officials hope to complete the roll out by the end of January 2012.
The cost-saving move has attracted criticism from some residents and councillors, who are unhappy at the changes in warden cover arrangements. Last week, it was revealed that one Fraserburgh resident had mounted a complaint to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman over the way that a council consultation into the changes involving all 1,500 sheltered housing residents was conducted.
However, the changes have been defended by officials and the ruling administration, who claim that the review process had shown up varying levels of housing support which did not correspond to needs or numbers of tenants. By introducing a uniform level of support across Aberdeenshire, separating out tasks such as cleaning from core housing support tasks and by organising sheltered housing officers in teams covering a group of complexes each, the council hopes to make the service more ‘sustainable’ and ‘equitable’, while reducing the its yearly financial contribution to the service by around 30%.
“Members approved these new ways of working to allow us to maintain excellent quality of services for tenants seven days a week while maintaining charges at existing levels”, said Social Work and Housing Committee Chairman Councillor Gurudeo Saluj.
“Over the next twelve months the council will monitor the service carefully to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of our tenants.”
Commenting on the new sheltered housing service, Aberdeenshire Council’s Director of Housing and Social Work, Ritchie Johnson said that the new mobile response system was robust enough to deal with residents’ support needs at any time of year.
“Around 1,500 older people are supported by an excellent team of sheltered housing officers to maintain independent, active lifestyles from their own homes”, he said. “Our staff continue to be committed to delivering high quality support to these tenants.
“Our sheltered housing staff will continue to be contacted by tenants throughout the working day, seven days a week, both face-to-face and through mobile technology.
“In responding to feedback from tenants, we have arranged to employ council staff to regularly clean complexes.
“There is no change to the way the council handles emergency situations. These will continue to be dealt with as previously, by involving the emergency services.”
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