FLINTSHIRE Council is not looking to mix age groups in their sheltered housing schemes officers say, as the authority looks at ways to support the homeless.
The council is currently grappling with a projected £2.4m overspend in its homelessness service and is seeking to bring those costs down.
Potential options to achieve this were presented to councillors at the housing scrutiny committee, which ranged from offering landlords more financial incentive to house those at risk of homelessness to allocating two-bedroom council properties to single homeless people.
Speaking at the meeting, leader of the authority, Flint Castle Cllr Ian Roberts (Lab) said there was a desire to provide housing options across the county, while being mindful that families made homeless would be better served staying in their area.
Cllr Roberts said: “If a family for whatever reason is evicted from a private house or even by a mortgage company they may have children in specific schools, they will want accommodation near those schools.
“There is need for accommodation all over the county.
“We need homeless accommodation in the rural areas, we need it in Mold, we need it in Broughton, we need it in Buckley – we need it absolutely everywhere and we don’t wish as a council to export our homelessness to other areas. It’s necessity that forces us to do that.
“This is one of the most challenging issues we and every local authority in Wales has.”
Opposition leader, Connah’s Quay Central Cllr Bernie Attridge (Ind) said a review of sheltered housing was needed in case such properties are allocated to those on the homeless register, adding he was concerned at the thought of vulnerable 45 year-olds being placed among 90 year-old neighbours.
He said: “The quicker we get the sheltered housing review done the better so we’ve got a handle on what we have and haven’t got.
“I think that should be fast-tracked as that is going to inform a lot of the big issues within housing.
“My issue is the allocation of people under the age of sheltered accommodation.
“We’re talking about the most vulnerable in society.”
Cllr Attridge added that he was pleased there was a commitment to provide solutions across the county.
He said: “It’s wonderful to hear from the leader of the council and the cabinet member that they’re quite clear this needs to be across Flintshire because I personally feel as a Connah’s Quay member, people think homelessness is only down in the Deeside area.
“We don’t want any more single-person accommodation because of the concentration of them. We don’t even know where all our HMO’s are.”
In response, Cllr Roberts said he understood the concerns around potential use of sheltered accommodation but said it can work with the right support structure.
“As a member with a considerable amount of sheltered housing (in Flint) I have sympathy with the view that putting a 45 year-old next to a 90 year-old will cause concern”, he said.
“Sometimes it can work very well and the 45 year-old will support the 90 year-old, going to the shop for them and so on.
“However we all appreciate from time to time there are more challenging and difficult cases and I think the problem is how do we develop a support network that is responsible 24/7 so when local members get calls on a Saturday night, because something’s going on, how do we actually get through to that?
“If we know that we are putting someone in a situation where we know they could be difficult, there needs to be a far higher level of support not only for the person going into the property but residents round about.
“In a tower block it’s even worse. In the tower blocks in Flint you’ve got a considerable number of people there who can be affected by this.
“That’s not saying everyone on the homelessness register would be like that, there will be many people grateful for a property offered.”
Cllr Roberts suggested a system enhanced housing management would be needed if people under acceptable sheltered housing age are put into properties next to vulnerable ageing people.
Officers assured members the authority is not looking to mix age groups in sheltered housing schemes – and the options discussed at scrutiny will be presented to the council’s cabinet.