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De-Classification of Sheltered Housing and removal of Community Alarms

(72 Posts)
youngagain Thu 23-Mar-17 14:12:33

Our Social Landlord, The Guinness Partnership, has decided to remove the community alarm systems from all its' Sheltered Housing properties throughout England, and de-classifying them as Adult Living. They say the alarm systems are outdated and newer, more efficient technology is now available.
We, the tenants of our Sheltered Scheme agree there are better systems available, but we maintain that the alarm system is part of the fixtures and fittings, and is the responsibility of Guinness to replace. A block of flats and 12 bungalows make up our scheme and all these buildings were purpose built for Sheltered Housing and the alarm systems were installed at the time of construction, making the systems part of the fixtures and fittings.
Each tenant is being asked to sign a 'Variation of Tenancy Agreement' so the alarm systems can be removed from their properties and also a 'Disclaimer' saying that Guinness will no longer be responsible for the 'maintenance or replacement' of the alarm system.
As you can imagine, this has caused great worry and distress among the residents of the scheme, and some people have signed these papers without knowing exactly what it is they are signing, or the implications of signing.
Guinness say we are not Sheltered Housing, but we are housing for Older persons or Adult Living and always have been. We maintain we are, and always have been, Sheltered Housing, and my tenancy clearly states - 1 bedroom Sheltered Bungalow, and the properties are advertised as Sheltered Housing, whether it's a flat or a bungalow.
Sheltered Housing means that there are additional services being provided, as stated on the Guinness website, but by de-classifying the properties the additional services do not have to be provided.
There has been no discussion over the changes, even though the Guinness terms and conditions clearly state they will consult with residents over any major changes to tenancy or property. The first response I received to the complaint I sent in to Guinness over these changes, clearly stated that there was 'no change to the tenancy'. In that case, why are residents being 'asked' to sign a 'Variation of Tenancy Agreement'?
All the details have now been forwarded to the Housing Ombudsman for their ruling.
The services which were provided at the time we signed our Tenancies are gradually being taken away. These services were part of the tenancies and should not have been removed. We lost our Warden/Scheme Manager in 2012 when Hampshire County Council stopped the funding grant for Supporting People Services. However, up until that time, a ruling was in force (I can't find out who made this ruling) which meant all the tenants of the Scheme paid a fixed sum each month for the services of Guinness Care and Support, whether they needed their services or not, even though Guinness Care and Support were also receiving a grant for these services from HCC as well. At the time they said that they couldn't ask one tenant to pay this sum and not another because of the alarm system being in place. However, all they had to do was literally remove the cords in each property and this would mean the alarm couldn't be used, but it didn't disrupt the alarm system.
The alarm system is part of the fixtures and fittings and should be replaced/updated by the Guinness Partnership Ltd; we are definitely Sheltered Housing and wish to stay Sheltered Housing; as part of the fixtures and fittings we shouldn't be made to pay any extra for the alarm systems because this is included in the overall rent for the property.
Guinness say they will no longer be responsible for anything to do with the alarm systems, but one of the service providers they are suggesting is Guinness Care and Support!
Is there anyone else who has been affected by these changes?

chelseababy Thu 23-Mar-17 16:50:12

Have you tried getting national publicity? Watchdog or Five Live Investigates for example?

Izabella Thu 23-Mar-17 17:10:03

Zagreb. Name and shame in the wider domain.

Izabella Thu 23-Mar-17 17:10:37


trisher Thu 23-Mar-17 21:20:19

I've not heard of this youngagain but what happened in my mum's housing scheme may interest you. It remains sheltered housing but about 3 years ago the housing association decided to remove the orange pull chords and install a new technological modern system (Ha). It involved each flat having a special screen showing the entrance, with the ability to open the front door. It was also supposed to enable tenants to communicate with each other and the scheme manager. It has never worked and the tenants were told the other day that the chords will be reinstated.
Have you a registered Tenants Association? When my mum was in dispute about service charges we were told this would have given her a lot more leverage. Unfortunately most of the residents are to old to cope with organising this but it might help if you can find enough support
Shelter do give advice to sheltered housing tenants

Swanny Thu 23-Mar-17 21:39:21

youngagain you need to make as much noise as possible about this. Local and national papers, tv and your local MP. This is disgusting treatment of vulnerable people and Guinness need to be named and shamed.

NfkDumpling Fri 24-Mar-17 09:44:59

Shout as loud as you can in every direction! This is turning you complex into an old persons ghetto!

Initially sheltered housing complexes run by local councils and housing associations with resident wardens running social clubs and popping in every day to check worked wonderfully. Then the warden duties were cut back, then the wardens had to share sites then they vanished altogether and now the cords are going?

Why move into one in the first place?

youngagain Fri 24-Mar-17 10:04:04

Hi Everybody
Thank you all for your kind words and advice. I don't know about other parts of the country, but here, if you are over (it was 60) 55, then the only accommodation you can get is Sheltered Housing. I have lived here since 2010 and I was told it was Sheltered Housing or nothing, so we really didn't have a choice.
I was on Radio Solent last Tuesday morning; we have the support of an MP and a County Councillor, and I have been able to get advice from a Solicitor through a website called Forces Law (I am an ex-WRAF). The Royal British Legion is also trying to help us. I have contacted every organisation I can think of including the CAB, Shelter, AgeUK, Independent Living, Sheltered Housing UK and unfortunately, most of the organisations could only offer advice as to who to contact next etc. I have now had final response to my complaint to Guinness and I have passed all the details to the Housing-Ombudsman, including the solicitor's response, which I must say was favourable.
We used to have a Warden/Scheme manager, but she was removed in 2012 when the funding was cut.
To respond to Trisher, we have the same issue here where so many of the residents are in their 70s, 80s or 90s and really don't want the upset and hassle of change and are not able to take part in any tenant Association. Unfortunately, most of the residents don't really understand what is being asked of them and definitely don't understand the implications of what is happening.
Thank you for the advice as to contacting the papers and TV. I made sure that this was ok to do even though the papers have been submitted to the Housing Ombudsman and they say it will have no bearing on their ruling.
So, ladies, that is my next step. I notice you mention Watchdog and FiveLive. I will definitely investigate these, and will also email all the other news programmes in my area.
A break from this at the weekend - in London painting my son's flat!
Thanks to you all for your support and advice. I really appreciate it.
Have a good weekend everyone. x

trisher Fri 24-Mar-17 10:25:00

Go for it youngagainI think one of the problems is that these people are able to take advantage of their tenants because they are older and just want a quiet life. I know my mum's housing association have had lots of issues around the service charge. Let us know how you get on please

youngagain Fri 24-Mar-17 10:38:38

Thanks Trisher, will do.

NfkDumpling Fri 24-Mar-17 19:21:49

You and Yours on Radio Four champion stuff like this too. Things often seem to change when the Beeb get involved.

youngagain Fri 24-Mar-17 20:50:49

Thanks NfkDumpling. I really do appreciate all the advice everyone has given me and I will be following up on all of it on Monday. I will let you know what happens. Have a great weekend.

Badenkate Sat 25-Mar-17 08:55:43

I've been reading the posts and I perfectly understand why the residents are upset. However, I'm not entirely clear what the orange pulls are for? Are they to summon assistance in the case of an emergency, or just to contact someone. The reason I'm asking is that DH volunteers as a Community First Responder and he frequently gets calls to elderly people and around 90% of them are because of falls. Generally they are unable to move themselves and they have either been found by family members/carers or because they have alarms which they carry around. His comment was, when I read this out to him, that this was very old-fashioned and would be of little use in most of the emergencies that he is called to.

trisher Sat 25-Mar-17 10:17:08

So are you suggesting that no help should be available Badenkate? The chords are answered at a central point where someone asks about what has happened ,what help is needed and a decision is taken to contact emergency services, send someone out and/or contact a relative. My mum pulled her chord on a few occasions. One was a fall, she had only minor injuries but the people who attended called an ambulance, contacted me and stayed with her until I and the ambulance arrived and we went to A&E. I have no doubt that their presence helped her. They helped her up, made sure she was warm and comfortable, chatted to her and reassured her. Had she had to lie on the floor alone I am sure the effect would have been much worse. She had a broken collarbone.

Badenkate Sat 25-Mar-17 10:43:16

Certainly not trisher but generally, as I said in my post, the usual alarm system around here is an alarm button which is carried around usually around the neck or on the wrist. This is then connected to an alarm centre which has details of the person whose alarm it is and they contact emergency services. Generally DH has been contacted within 2 minutes of the alarm being pressed. Pull alarms are fixed and in many cases he's been to, the patient physically could not have moved any distance at all and at times has been stuck in one place - for example a very large lady who fell in a narrow galley kitchen and had to be lifted by a special lift cushion.

trisher Sat 25-Mar-17 11:42:54

My mum has both. Is inclined to forget where her personal alarm is though if she puts it down. Thank goodness cords can't move!

Badenkate Sat 25-Mar-17 12:22:52

It is supposed to be 'fastened' to her at all times - even in bed.

trisher Sat 25-Mar-17 14:39:20

You can't actually force someone to keep something on you know. Even at 94 my mother has her own opinions and if she doesn't want to wear it no-one is going to make her. (and I wouldn't dream of trying to)

NfkDumpling Sat 25-Mar-17 17:20:33

FiL kept his neck alarm in the drawer by the phone so he knew where it was. He had a fall and was on the floor on his own for sometime before he managed to get to the alarm. He wore it after that!

Badenkate Sat 25-Mar-17 18:32:46

Then that's her choice Trisher. Nobody can make anybody wear an alarm that's designed to safeguard them. All I was trying to say is that alarms that are carried by elderly people who have been identified as running the risk of needing help are better than cords hanging somewhere possibly out of reach.

durhamjen Sat 25-Mar-17 22:39:47

Check this website to see why sheltered housing is going to disappear.
Lots of other articles about it on the site.

youngagain Sat 25-Mar-17 22:44:47

Hi Ladies. Thank you for all your comments. To reply to Badenkate, with the present alarm system, which are the orange pull cords available in each room, the residents also have the option of a pendant or wristband to wear to give them more confidence should they not be able to reach the orange alarm cords which are in every room.
However, the point we are trying to make is, yes there are better systems on the market but it is up to Guinness to replace the system with a more modern one. The alarm cords were installed when the buildings were constructed so are part of the fixtures and fittings, which are maintained by Guinness. Guinness are intent on removing the alarms without replacing them, but are instead telling residents to contact a private provider - one of which is Guinness Care and Support, even though Guinness has said they will no longer have anything to do with any alarm systems! Once the alarm systems are removed, Guinness will be able to de-classify the Sheltered Housing Status to Adult Living, when they are then able to remove other services usually found within Sheltered Housing Schemes. Although, the only other service they provide is the Elderly Living Advisor who looks after 3 schemes and comes here for a couple of hours on 4 days a week. If Guinness consider the alarm systems are not part of fixtures and fittings, why are they getting the residents to sign a Disclaimer, stating that Guinness will no longer be responsible for the 'maintenance or replacement' of the alarm system?

trisher Sun 26-Mar-17 09:37:03

Reasons my mum takes off her alarm Badenkate.
If it is on her wrist-sometimes she wears clothes with tight sleeves that she can't manoeuvre over it (think taking off tight jeans with your shoes on).
If it is round her neck- she sometimes just takes it off with her jewellery and puts it safely in her jewellery box.
If it is on her clothes- she sometimes forgets to remove it and it goes in the laundry basket. She sometimes takes it off and forgets to attach it to her clean clothes.
The alarm is useful but it isn't the entire solution.
The orange cord has saved her life on at least one occasion.

NfkDumpling Sun 26-Mar-17 11:13:54

It's the fact that most of the residents will have moved in on the understanding they would get support when needed and, when initially wardens were in place, a real person calling in each day and organised social events so they wouldn't be lonely. House maintenance all taken care of. Proper support. Slowly this has all been eroded until now all the advantages have gone. If they'd stayed in a mixed community at least there'd be a chance of a fit young neighbour or two to call on in an emergency.

trisher Sun 26-Mar-17 11:49:05

Actually my mum's accommodation has rapidly improved lately as far as a support person is concerned. They had a resident 'warden" when she first moved in who was OK but not terrific. This was terminated when he left and the job was changed to a "Scheme Manager", no longer resident. The job was filled for a few years by a number of different people and at one point someone was working between 2 schemes. The people concerned spent a lot of time printing notices, pinning things on notice boards and working on the computer (Facebook?). Now they have a "Housing Support Officer" who has turned out to be a God send. He organises social events, chats and jokes with the residents and maintains the garden and outside area. The job is what you choose to make it and he doesn't like being inactive, as a result all the residents have benefitted. If only every scheme had someone like him.