“We want our wardens!” say Angus sheltered housing residents

Murray Court residents Edith Sherriff, Roma Bunton, Phyllis Arthur, Agnes Paton and Agnes Moir pictured with councillor David May.
Murray Court residents Edith Sherriff, Roma Bunton, Phyllis Arthur, Agnes Paton and Agnes Moir pictured with councillor David May.

Residents living in sheltered housing in Angus are concerned they may lose their wardens in a move that will change the way support is given in the community.

Angus Council officers have been visiting sheltered housing complexes across the county to find out the views of the tenants and their families on the support services currently provided.

Under the Government’s new self directed support (SDS) model it is feared that “vital” on-site wardens - who are often the first port of call for elderly and vulnerable residents - may be axed.

Council officials have explained that under SDS there is a need to focus relevant services on individual needs as not everyone in sheltered accommodation requires the same level of support, saying some people feel they do not need the warden service.

The feeling from tenants and family members who have attended meetings is that wardens will be replaced by an on-call service.

Ted Smith, resident at Blackfriars Court in Montrose, said: “The general consensus is why hold these meetings when everything has probably already been done and dusted? I think it should have been a public consultation rather than meetings with individual complexes.

“I think it is time Angus Council listened to the people. We want our wardens. Everyone needs their wardens and not just the residents, their families too.

“They’re are here for a reason and that is why people go into sheltered housing. They give reassurance to us and our families that someone is here if something happens.

“I’m often out and about but if the wardens don’t see me for a few days they’ll call to make sure I’m ok.

“If they do away with our wardens we’re going to have to use the community alarms more and that will mean they will have to employ more community officers, so it’s a catch 22 situation.”

There are also concerns that communal areas and laundry services could be under threat.

Mr Smith said: “The communal areas are a lifetime for a lot of people. For some it is the only time they get to meet and talk with other people.”

Angus GP Kristien Hintjens, based at Townhead Practice in Montrose, fears the proposed change to the warden service would be a “loss of a watchful knowing pair of eyes”.

She told us: “Sheltered housing wardens are professional, caring and profoundly important to their residents and their community and to GPs.

“My worries are the increased risk of missed deterioration, such as confusion, reduced mobility and falls if the person is not being visited daily. This can occur very quickly and makes life threatening illness/hospital admission more likely.

“Wardens know their residents very well and can alert us as GPs quickly if they have concerns.

“Wardens allow GPs to access vulnerable resident’s homes during the day or at other unusual times when otherwise we would not be able to get in, and ensure that security of the complexes are not compromised.

“This may be covered by a concierge type service but wardens do much more than that and are often flexible to accommodate residents needs, well beyond their contracted role.”

She added that wardens are a “vital” link between patient’s relatives, next of kin and GPs.

She said: “Some of our patients in sheltered housing have memory problems and cannot remember who their next of kin is or who we should ring if things go wrong. Understanding the social circumstances of residents is very important in deciding what to do if they need hospital admission or to attend clinic appointments and wardens co-ordinate this complex mix of information.”

Arbroath Councillor David Fairweather and Montrose councillor David May claim they only found out about the meetings because tenants and their relatives had been in touch with them. The Review understands that all elected members were briefed on the review on September 9.

Mr May, who has attended meetings at Montrose’s Murray Court and Blackfriars Court sheltered complexes, said the feeling at both facilities is that they are worried about losing wardens as they are “vital for all the residents”.

“I do not understand why the demand for sheltered housing seems to have gone down, especially given the key role they play, and the fact that there are more and more people living longer and this suggests that there would be an increasing demand for this form of housing

“Overall it was clear that the council staff got the message that the residents and their families wanted to retain the tenancy support officers and the community lounges and there were concerns raised about some of the flats being transferred to community lounges.”

A council spokesman said:“We are currently involved in a month-long consultation programme with our sheltered housing tenants to discuss the future delivery of the service. It is important to stress that all opinions count as we seek to inform future design and provision.”