‘A disaster waiting to happen:’ councillor

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An Arbroath councillor has raised concerns over the future of sheltered housing and the wellbeing of residents in the town.

Independent David Fairweather contacted the Arbroath Herald about proposed changes to Angus Council’s sheltered housing provision which he believes will not best serve the community.

The local authority is considering options to turn all of their sheltered housing facilities in Angus into council housing as part of the Self Directed Support (SDS) scheme.

Part of this scheme would mean that the existing wardens, or tenancy support officers, would be replaced by visiting care staff and that the community alarm system would be extended to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Existing residents would have the option of staying where they are - but not as sheltered housing - or going into private care.

Councillor Fairweather had been contacted by a constituent who was concerned about a family member’s situation in a Montrose sheltered housing facility.

According to Councillor Fairweather, who sits on the council Social Work committee, the consultation has been approached ‘by the back door’.

He explained: “We did get an email from the council which was very vague saying there would be a consultation on sheltered housing to look at how it could be better run.

“I contacted the social work department and was informed that there was a consultation to be held in this particular Montrose sheltered housing, which I went along to.

“I found that at the meeting the residents and their families were very hostile to the fact that the council was looking to remove the wardens from the particular sheltered housing and turn it into amenity houses, which are basically council houses.

“I think that’s a disaster waiting to happen. I think the council has been looking to push through SDS and, at the same time, make savings by turning the sheltered housing into council housing.

“I have grave concerns that this has been done by the back doors.

“It was to my great surprise to find there was a consultation for the sheltered housing in Arbroath on the same day as the Montrose one and we were not contacted. I would have liked to given my support to the residents and made sure they were understanding what the council was planning to do.

“I would have found it more useful if I had been involved from the very start.”

A report on the sheltered housing consultation in Angus is expected in January.

Councillor Fairweather continued: “The council have said that there is not the demand any more for sheltered housing and I found that very hard to believe in the fact that our population is getting older.”

Figures were provided by the council for last year, and it showed that Arbroath had 98 sheltered housing units, four of which were void, while Montrose had 158 units, with five void.

He continued: “Void does not necessarily mean empty, it could be not fit for purpose, needing work and so on.

“If they are going to turn these sheltered housing into council housing what Scottish policy requires is that anyone considered homeless, or who has drink or drug related issues etc, they go to the top of the list which could mean that we have vulnerable people staying next door to people with anti-social behaviour issues and that needs to be taken into consideration.

“I think they’ve opened themselves a nice can of worms here. I think these people are being told that it’s a great idea and I’m saying, no, it isn’t.

“The worry for me is that some 94-year-old has a fall and can’t press her personal alarm, she could lie there for a day or two if no one is dropping in. At the moment the warden will keep an eye out and if the don’t see someone for a while they will check on them, but with SDS it will be on the carers, and they might only come in twice a week and that has to be a real concern for the families.”