Safety fears over housing funding cuts in West Norfolk

Paul Smith who is raising concerns about proposed cuts to support services for sheltered housing residents
Paul Smith who is raising concerns about proposed cuts to support services for sheltered housing residents

People living in sheltered accommodation will find it harder to get the support they need because of funding cuts, a West Norfolk resident has warned.

Housing chiefs admit they have been forced to reform the help they provide for vulnerable residents, because of the loss of county council funding.

But they say they have had “positive” discussions with tenants over the measures in an effort to minimise the 
impact.

However, critics have claimed the borough’s main social housing provider, Freebridge, is being forced to make three out of seven support workers it currently employs redundant because of the loss of funding.

It is believed the move is the consequence of funding reductions imposed in Norfolk County Council’s budget for the current financial year.

And they fear the measures mean vulnerable people are at risk of having to wait longer for help when they need it most.

North Lynn resident Paul Smith said: “It means residents feel unsafe. They don’t know when they’re going to get help.”

Mr Smith, who is himself partially sighted, says it can already take several minutes for anyone to respond to the pull cord which is placed in residents’ homes to enable them to seek emergency assistance.

He maintains that greater support is needed for him and his fellow residents and has called for them to make their voices heard as well.

He said: “I think sheltered housing is going downhill fast. There’s lots of residents who think things but don’t say them.”

Robert Clarke, Freebridge director of housing, said: “Norfolk County Council have previously provided Freebridge with money from their Support in Sheltered Housing fund to enable us to support tenants who live on our sheltered housing schemes.

“While we were understandably disappointed to hear that this funding would no longer be available, we have made positive progress by working with our tenants in sheltered schemes to ensure that any structural changes we are required to make to our services have minimal impact.

“If any of our tenants in sheltered schemes remain concerned they can call us on 03332 404444 and we’ll be happy to talk further.”

The issue has been raised during a public consultation on Norfolk County Council’s budget for the coming financial year.

The authority is proposing to increase council tax by nearly five per cent, with much of that increase being ringfenced for adult social care, but says it still needs to make £125 million of savings over the next four years.

A spokesman said: “We have ceased funding sheltered housing support so that we can increase our investment in prevention services, which support more people to live independent lives.

“The majority of Norfolk’s sheltered housing providers have introduced and funded their own services since the county council withdrew funding.

“We are spending £1.3m on a new service which will provide support for older people whether or not they live in sheltered housing, and general support to prevent homelessness.

“Overall, the county council continues to increase spending on helping support older people to live independently in their own homes. We have to target our spending where it can have the most benefit.”