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Fit for the future

Many social landlords face the issue of how to go about refurbishing their outdated sheltered housing. Angela Stacey explains how Trivallis went about it.

In December 2007 Trivallis was set up as a community mutual housing organisation to manage Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s transferred housing stock. This included 27 sheltered housing schemes for people aged 60+.

We promised our customers excellent quality housing, which meets the Welsh Housing Quality Standard, helps people remain independent and live as part of their community.

Built in the 1960s and 70s, the sheltered housing stock was a mixture of poor-quality bedsits, small one-bedroom flats and bungalows. Many of the schemes had shared bathrooms and poor accessibility, as well as outdated and unwelcoming communal areas. Demand in some areas was very low, with long-term voids at 50 per cent in one of the schemes.

We needed to carry out extensive modernisation in order to meet our promises and create viable schemes that are fit for the future.

We developed a two-stage approach to review our housing and support services for older people and carried out an options appraisal, looking at the design and condition of individual properties, communal facilities, housing demand, the locality and accessibility, and other providers in the area.

Schemes were categorised in accordance with their long-term viability and the improvements we needed to undertake.

Green – Viable, popular scheme. Retain and improve.

Amber – Viable scheme but design issues leading to increasing letting difficulties. Requires priority investment.

Blue – Location and demand good but current scheme does not lend itself to redesign. Re-provide sheltered accommodation with redevelopment of the site.

Red – Location, demand and accommodation poor. Not viable for sheltered housing in the long term. No further long-term investment, limited investment and essential maintenance only.

The first complex to be refurbished was Bryn ivor, Llwynypia

Whilst changes needed to be made, we were always aware of the implications this would have on the people who both live and work in Trivallis’ sheltered schemes.

We held group meetings at every scheme to discuss proposed renovations and ensure tenants were comfortable and understood the processes before works were started.

One of the main hurdles we had to overcome was managing temporary relocation to existing schemes and ensuring the safety of residents whilst refurbishment work was ongoing. We talked one-to-one with tenants in their homes, which was fundamental in ensuring we were aware of their needs, the personal impact or our plans, and any concerns.

In one instance, we were approached by a concerned relative whose mother had dementia and found change unsettling. We sat down with the family and worked out a plan to make the move as easy as possible. Photographs were taken of the tenant’s former flat, a flat with an identical layout was identified within the scheme and our staff moved the furniture to mirror the old flat.

The first complex to be refurbished was Bryn Ivor, Llwynypia. Prior to the work, voids were running at 50 per cent. It is now a state-of-the-art complex providing 15 one and two-bedroom properties offering a home for life. The accommodation provides a great range of communal facilities and associated activities not just for residents but the wider community of older people.

Bedsits with shared bathrooms were to be remodelled with the aim of creating one- and some two-bedroomed properties, providing a home for life so as people’s needs and demands changed the property would adapt with them.

Trivallis’ sheltered service model included a full-time scheme manager based at each scheme with an out-of-hours service and mobile cover at weekends. The service was largely funded through Supporting People grant and an intensive housing management charge.

A review of Supporting People by the Welsh Government in 2010 recommended that older people’s services be need and not tenure led. In partnership with the Supporting People commissioner, we revised the service model to incorporate service provision to older people in need of support regardless of tenure. One concern highlighted by tenants experiencing this change was that people had got used to having a scheme manager on site which gave peace of mind.

Residents and their raised beds at Swn Yr Afon

The new service sees a scheme coordinator working across a number of schemes. This approach was piloted by geographical area over several months, allowing time between each phase to consider feedback from tenants and staff on the new service and implementing any changes needed. This ensured management and staff resources were available, with capacity and flexibility to respond to unexpected issues.

This approach was essential to maintain tenants’ confidence in the new approach. Staff roles were made permanent and surplus staff released from this date.

Our refurbishment programme has provided modern, accessible homes with a range of communal facilities that meet Welsh Housing Quality Standards and are fit for the future.  The schemes are hubs within the community. They are well managed with a team of scheme co-ordinators looking after them and provide a range of activities and health and well-being initiatives.

We have received accreditation from the national Centre for Housing and Support three times, confirming that our sheltered housing service meets nationally recognised best practice standards.

Some 21 of Trivallis’ 23 Sheltered Schemes are also accredited with either gold or platinum  ‘Visibly Better’ standards by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) Wales. To obtain these standards, Trivallis must meet criteria focussing on different aspects of accessibility for people with sight loss who live in and visit the schemes.

Merlin Baker lives in one of Trivallis’ sheltered schemes, He said: ‘You’ve got your own independence. There are social groups that go on trips and plan activities like meals out, if you want to get involved in that sort of thing.  I feel like I’m living in a community within a community, my flat is ideal for me and I’d recommend sheltered accommodation to anybody.’

Angela Stacey is deputy director neighbourhoods at Trivallis

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