MILTON KEYNES COUNCIL
THE COUNCIL’S SHELTERED HOUSING AND COMMUNITY ALARM
This paper should be read as in conjunction with Milton Keynes
Council’s Older People’s Housing Strategy – Sept. 2005.
Milton Keynes Council has developed the following vision for its
sheltered housing and community alarm service:
The Council will provide affordable and secure housing for
older people. It will be good quality accommodation, with flexible
and responsive housing support available to those who need it.
The service will seek to promote people’s independence and
support them to live in their own home for as long as possible.
The Council’s sheltered housing service is a vital part of the fabric of
housing and social provision for older people in Milton Keynes. This
paper seeks to set out a plan for the Council’s sheltered housing
service and related services for the next five years. The sheltered
housing service contributes in a major way to three of the Council’s
corporate priorities. These are:
Giving older people the help they need to keep their
Providing affordable housing for those in need
Creating social inclusion
2. Milton Keynes Council sheltered housing service
The Council’s sheltered housing consists of two core services, housing
and housing support, which are brought together in one service.
Sheltered housing is primarily for older people, the normal age of entry
being 60 years or over, although disabled people with particular care
needs aged 55 or over are considered on an individual basis.
Council sheltered housing provides affordable council housing,
primarily one-bedroom flats, but sometimes two-bedroom flats and
sometimes bedsit flats, in a collective setting where there are some
communal facilities for tenants. Usually there is a communal lounge
and sometimes facilities for communal meals etc.
There are 954 sheltered housing properties spread over 31 schemes
across Milton Keynes. In addition there is the community alarm
services connected to over 5000 vulnerable older people in MK. The
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sheltered housing represents about 8% of the Council’s housing stock,
and provides housing and housing support to over 5% of older people
in Milton Keynes.
Support for tenants is provided by the wardens. In most sheltered
housing schemes the wardens are resident, working from 9.00 a.m. to
5.15 p.m. Monday to Friday, providing daily contact with each tenant
and advice, support and help with such things as budgeting, paying
bills, organising repairs, advice and information, emotional support,
contacting professionals and liaising with relatives (see appendix 1).
Wardens also arrange or support some activities to tenants within
In addition to the 31 sheltered housing schemes, the sheltered housing
service also provides support to council housing bungalows, often
located near to schemes, where tenants receive the community alarm
service and support from visiting wardens, but not the same level of
support as within a sheltered housing scheme. This is usually a weekly
visit. There are 1800 bungalows supported by the sheltered housing
3. The Community alarm service
The community alarm service provides 24-hour, seven-day a week
response service for all residents of sheltered housing and council
older people’s bungalows, and for any other vulnerable person who
might require the service in Milton Keynes. This includes owner-
occupiers who are frail or disabled, people at risk of domestic or racial
violence, younger disabled people and other vulnerable people.
The community alarm service provides a mobile warden service that
aims to call upon any person in need within 20 minutes of an alarm
call. The mobile warden service is available 24-hours a day, 7 days a
week. In addition to this service there is a daytime visiting warden
service, which will visit non-sheltered housing tenants on a weekly or
bi-weekly basis to provide advice and housing support. The community
alarm service is equipped with state of the art telephone and electronic
equipment, which allows it to provide a “telecare” monitoring service.
Telecare is a system of actively monitoring vulnerable people in terms
of room temperature, movement, going outside etc., or other measures
that might indicate they are at risk. Telemedicine can be used to
monitor health conditions such as blood pressure. Whereas a normal
community alarm service provides a response to a call made by a
tenant, telecare systems allow the community alarm control operator to
respond to signals that an older person may be in need or in distress,
even when they are unable to call for help themselves. Such systems
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are useful for those who might not be able to make use of community
alarm service, such as people with dementia or other conditions.
The Council’s sheltered housing accommodates 5% of older people in
Milton Keynes, while the community alarm service is connected to
another 15%. These services work closely with the home care service
and other aspects of adult social care to provide comprehensive
support and to promote the independence of frail older people in Milton
4. The changing context of sheltered housing
Traditionally council sheltered housing across the country has been
funded as part of the housing landlord service through the housing
revenue account (HRA). The HRA is a system whereby the pooled
rents of all tenants go to pay for the combined housing service with the
income from rents balancing the expenditure on the service. In many
local authorities the whole tenant population funded sheltered housing
from their rents.
In the late 1990’s the government decided to stop using housing
benefit to pay for housing support services such as a warden service
and community alarm service in sheltered housing. The Office of the
Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) established from April 2003 a
Supporting People grant for each local authority to fund all the housing
support taking place within that authority. As a consequence, in Milton
Keynes as elsewhere, the bulk of the sheltered housing and community
alarm service became funded by Supporting People grant.
The change of funding to Supporting People grant has meant that the
funding of the sheltered housing and community alarm service has
been capped, i.e. there is no growth available year on year, because
the ODPM is reducing Supporting People grant by about 5% a year to
local authorities. In addition, since April 2003 any older person entering
Council sheltered housing who is not entitled to housing benefit, has to
pay a charge, currently £18 a week, for housing support. Over time
more and more people will be liable to pay this charge. As a result it is
expected that people will only to choose to move into the Council’s
sheltered housing stock where they are frailer and more in need of
sheltered housing. The consequence of this is that voids are likely to
gradually increase and the sheltered housing population is likely to
become frailer over time. Indeed, these trends are already evident.
The average age of people living in sheltered housing has risen
steadily over the last 20 years: in 1986 it was 75 years of age; in 1996
it was 78; and in 2005 it is 84 years of age.
In the light of these changes in national arrangements and
demographic patterns, the Council needs to have in place a clear
strategy for its own sheltered housing service. As part of this process,
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the Audit Commission carried out a voluntary review of the sheltered
housing and community alarm service in November 2004.
The key messages from that review were:
The Council provides a good quality sheltered housing and
community alarm service and staff are well supported in carrying
out their duties
There is recognition of the need to make better use of sheltered
housing schemes, but there is not a coherent vision of what the
Council wants to achieve
The service faces increasing pressures from reductions in
Supporting People funding and a potential over-supply of
Sheltered housing schemes are not maintained to a consistently
The sheltered housing service is provided on the basis of a
traditional model that does not fully reflect the needs for more
flexible support for older people
The report made a number of recommendations, the first of which was
to “develop a clear vision and long term plan for sheltered
housing”. This strategy has been produced in response to that
5. Other Sheltered Housing in Milton Keynes
There are other providers of sheltered housing in the borough – 13
housing association schemes with 414 properties, and 22 private
housing schemes with 551 properties. Thus over 10% of older people
in MK live in sheltered housing. The housing association schemes are
funded through supporting people grant and charges. The private
schemes are funded through service charges, with occupants often
buying a property in the scheme.
The Council is working with the Extracare charitable trust to develop an
Extracare village in Milton Keynes, with 258 properties of which 100 will
be for social rent. The village will have a host of recreational activities
and a care team that will provide care to 110 residents. The aim is to
be able to provide care, even to those with high needs, until the end of
The older people population in MK is growing by about 3% a year, and
both national policy and the choices of older people support a trend
away from residential care towards forms of sheltered housing.
Therefore there continues to be a role for Council sheltered housing
within the wider sheltered housing market, but the Council needs to
ensure that the service continues to change and develop to meet the
needs and higher expectations of older people in the borough and that
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it continues to fit with the spectrum of sheltered housing provision in
place and being developed in Milton Keynes.
6. The Council’s vision for its sheltered housing and community
The following vision statement has been developed for the Council’s
sheltered housing and community alarm service.
The Council will provide affordable and secure housing for older
people. It will be good quality accommodation, with flexible and
responsive housing support available to those who need it. The
service will seek to promote people’s independence and support
them to live in their own home for as long as possible.
This vision covers both the housing provision itself (the bricks and
mortar) and the housing support service (the wardens and alarm
service). To achieve this vision, we need to adopt principles for the
service and a clear plan for how the service needs in develop in
response to older people. The following principles are suggested:
Council sheltered housing will support a ‘balanced’ community.
The criteria will not restrict fairly able older people from entering
sheltered housing, but it will also cater for those with significant
housing, social care and health needs
Sheltered housing will, as far as possible, offer all tenants a
home for life, ensuring that health and social care services are
available to support tenants until the end of life
People with very high needs will not move into sheltered
housing unless a detailed care plan has been developed and
sufficient care support is available to meet their needs
Housing support and community alarm will be available to all
older people who need these, throughout the Borough,
regardless of tenure
Sheltered housing has an important role in promoting healthy
lifestyles, social inclusion and well-being through the housing
Sheltered housing will seek to meet the needs of all older
people, but will also seek to meet the needs of specific groups,
such as those from a minority ethnic community or those with a
particular disability, where there is a demonstrated need for
such groups to have separate provision
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The sheltered housing service will work closely with the council’s
adult social care service and the council/PCT intermediate care
services to meet the needs of older people in the most seamless
The housing stock and the housing support service will be
provided in the most cost effective way, so that older people get
the most benefit from the resources available
Tenants and other users of the council’s sheltered housing and
community alarm service will be fully consulted in all service
developments, in agreeing service standards and in providing
regular quality feedback
7. The way forward
The sheltered housing service has, over the last five years, developed
several innovative services in partnership with health and social care,
notably the extra-care housing scheme, Kilkenny House at Westcroft,
and 13 intermediate care flats at Orchard House, Wolverton. The
community alarm service is currently developing assistive technology
(telecare) in order to support people with long-term health needs. The
service supports several Age Concern lunch clubs within its schemes.
Overall the service supports in some way over 20% of older people in
Despite these successes, the service needs to respond to the
challenges facing it: the year on year reduction in supported people
funding; the few older schemes which have hard-to-let, mainly bed-sit
style accommodation; the large amount of resource tied up in a
traditional housing support service in the sheltered schemes; the
limited resource available to older people living in other settings; the
development of the extra-care village offering more modern
accommodation and a wider range of housing support services.
In order to respond to these challenges and to create a service able to
deliver the vision, the following areas of work will be undertaken this
From stock condition surveys, produce an asset management
plan for sheltered housing, setting out the work needed on each
scheme to bring it up to an agreed standard over 5 years
Develop and consult on a set of standards for council sheltered
housing, including flat sizes, upkeep of communal areas and
accessibility for disabled people
Review the way the supported housing service is provided, both
to tenants and to community alarm users, in order to increase
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the range of service on offer to all and to provide more flexibility
Develop a range of well being services (fitness classes, health
advice, adult education) available not only to scheme residents,
but also to older people living in the vicinity of a scheme, so that
the service provides a resource to all local people
Identify any schemes which are not fit for purpose and, in
consultation with tenants, develop better options for the use of
those scheme and improved accommodation choices for those
Develop telecare schemes to enable older people with long-term
illness to receive housing support, and health and social care
services in their own homes
Carry out an equalities audit of the whole service and from this
develop actions to make the service more available to under-
Milton Keynes Council has a sheltered housing and community alarm
service that it can be proud of. The service has been innovative and
has worked in partnership to develop new schemes and services.
However, the advent of supporting people funding, the changing
expectations of older people and the development of new forms of
sheltered housing and housing support such as the extra-care village,
are challenges that all local authority sheltered housing services now
have to face.
This strategy seeks to give a clear way forward for the Council’s
service for the next five years, setting out a vision, a set of principles,
and some necessary areas of work. By carrying out this work in the
next year, the sheltered housing and community alarm service will be
of better quality, more responsive to the needs of older people, and
able to meet the challenges of the future.
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The role of the warden is to provide an effective Sheltered Housing Service to
tenants and to develop and promote the Sheltered Housing scheme into a
community resource for all older people.
Hours of Work
Monday – Friday 09.00 to 17.15. (Wardens are entitled to start work an hour
earlier/later than this thus finishing earlier/later).
There is an entitlement of one hour for lunch each day.
There is no requirement to work on bank holidays, weekends or evenings.
Provide a daily, morning visit to each tenant to monitor his or her overall well
being. The visit may result in the need to assist in accessing or providing
information on a number of different services. For example:
Calling a doctor
Referral for social care, Home Care, Social Worker.
Assisting a tenant who is in distress, confused or angry.
Help with benefits, rent, council tax and general finance advice.
Liaison with relatives.
Promoting Tenants’ Independence
Wardens must encourage tenants to maintain their independence as far and
for as long as possible. Wardens actively encourage tenants to organise
social activities and encourage older people in the local community to join in
the activities. Wardens are not required to do social activities in the evening or
at weekends but some may do this and then take time back later on that
Short term Tenant Support
Wardens are required to give additional support to tenants who are
temporarily indisposed; this is strictly on a short term or emergency basis.
Wardens must ensure that they obtain Next of Kin details from all tenants, and
keep them updated on an annual basis, and pass this information through to
Central Control. They will also assist tenants in the completion of their
Wardens are required to give a response to all calls on the Community Alarm
system from their tenants when on duty. When the warden is off duty all calls
go through to the Community Alarm Centre. The warden will respond to any
emergency calls received between 7am – 9am Monday to Friday, at all other
times the Control Centre will respond and the Mobile Warden will attend if
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Wardens will have a number of older people to visit weekly in their local
community. During this visit they will test the community alarm equipment and
provide advice and assistance on housing and social care issues. As well as
encouraging these tenants to join in any scheme social activities. Wardens
will also from time to time provide cover in other schemes and attend
meetings and training sessions.
The warden is responsible for:
The security, health and safety issues and fire safety of all the
Reporting repairs to housing maintenance for all communal areas
Weekly testing of the community alarm and fire alarm systems,
emergency lighting, door entry system and lifts
Supervising contractors, cleaning, landscape, repairs, and window
Monitoring refuse collection, special collection.
Arranging for paths to be gritted when necessary.
Wardens will liase with the area estate manager on housing issues e.g.:
Voids and re-letting of properties
Accompanied viewing with prospective new tenants
This is intended as a guide only and is not an exhaustive list.
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