Giving shelter: cuts to sheltered housing

Giving ShelterThis is a survey of housing wardens sheltered housing officers, care support workers with a small number of people in other roles, e.g. cleaner, housing officer/manager, cook. All respondents are UNISON members

It is part of UNISON Scotland’s Damage series – a range of reports into the impact of austerity cuts on the delivery of public services.

This report looks at issues facing our members working in sheltered housing. Most respondents work for local authorities, with the rest employed by housing associations.

UNISON members were keen to speak out. It is obvious how hard they work and how much they care for their tenants: often giving their own time because they care for the tenants they are there to support. But they say they are struggling to have adequate time to spend with tenants and are worried about the changes and cuts that have taken place already and any more coming down the line.

Members complained about increasing paperwork/computer reports, taking valued and important time away from direct work with tenants.

Members reported that posts had gone with 27% reporting the reduction of staff had been “considerable”. 35% reported a reduction in the number of hours/days worked (e.g. no weekend working/shorter hours in each complex). And 41% said there had been a reduction in the number of other staff.

This means there are longer periods where tenants rely on an alarm/call button type of “telecare” service.

Members also reported low morale. Member’s top concerns were financial cuts hitting the service in the next few years, increased workloads and “quality of service for tenants”.
And this made them concerned about the ability of their tenants to live independently.

Key issues are:

90% of members who responded are worried about the impact of further cuts to hard-hit services in the next few years.

47% said there have already been major cuts, with another 14% reporting severe cuts.

80% of respondents said their work role had changed in recent years.

Members are concerned they are not getting to spend enough time with tenants, with resulting consequences for the wellbeing, health and safety of the elderly, often frail, people living in sheltered housing.

Too much paperwork/computer work in comparison with time spent with tenants. Members also highlighted worries around giving medication without sufficient training, about being vulnerable due to lone working, and about supporting the complex needs of some tenants.

Changes in spending included: Glasgow, where expenditure fell from £5.6m to £3m between 2013/14 and 2016/17 (and has been cut to zero now); Scottish Borders, down from £693k in 2013/14 to £497k in 2016/17; and Stirling, down from £157k to £86k, while Aberdeenshire increased from £2m to £4.3m, although staff numbers there went down slightly, 81 to 77. East Ayrshire spending went down from £169k to £100k (staff from 31 to 23) and East Dunbartonshire figures fell from £202k to £43k.