Supported housing in Croydon

By - Friday 21st November, 2014

Sarah Robson describes the challenges vulnerable adults in Croydon face in finding a home of their own

When I was asked to write an article about supported housing in Croydon, it took me some time to decide how to approach the subject. It’s hard to give this topic the attention it deserves without going into the ‘nitty gritty’ of funding, tendering and property development. Although this is all relevant, my experience in health and social care has always been of positive outcomes in the supported housing sector.

The real challenges emerge when the time comes for a vulnerable adult to move on to independent living. So I wanted to concentrate on raising awareness of the difficulties faced by vulnerable adults when searching for a home of their own, as well as acknowledging the many local schemes working to bring positive change.

Supported housing aims to enable vulnerable people to live more independently, both in their own homes and in the community. Housing-related support can range from helping an individual with benefit claims to developing their basic life skills or assisting them to return to work or training.

The move to supported housing can be a hard transition

The definition of ‘vulnerable adult’ referred to is from 1997 Consultation “Who Decides?” issued by the Lord Chancellor’s Department. This states that a vulnerable adult is a person:

“…who is or may be in need of community care services by reason disability, age or illness; and is or may be unable to take care of or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation”. ‘Adult’ covers all people over eighteen years of age.

The move to supported housing can be a hard transition, especially when the environment can often involve shared accommodation and communal facilities.The assistance of a good support worker can be invaluable. You can often be put in challenging situations and the hours can be long, with patience, determination and enthusiasm being your most valuable tools. With the right support network in place, it is entirely possible for a vulnerable adult to achieve positive outcomes and to live a more independent and integrated life.

There are a multitude of supported living homes in Croydon, owned and managed by many different organisations. However, these are rarely intended as a ‘home for life’. Supported living is not to be confused with residential care and should be viewed as the first step of the journey to independent living.

So what happens when somebody is ready for independent living? We face a housing crisis, not only in Croydon but nationally. With some Local Authority waiting times as long as ten years, council housing is rarely a viable solution.

The stigma of having your rent paid by housing benefit is strong

Housing associations in Croydon providing general needs accommodation face high demand and the Local Authority will normally be given first refusal. The best option is for an individual to source private rented property then claim housing benefit to help cover the costs. But the stigma attached to those paying rent via housing benefit is strong and it is increasingly difficult to find private landlords who are willing to accept such tenants.

There are no easy answers. However, in Croydon there are many passionate and innovative individuals, trying to improve options for vulnerable adults in our community.

Courses are designed by people with lived experience of homelessness

Just one example of different teams in the Croydon housing sector coming together is the soon-to-start How to Find a Flat and Maintain a Tenancy course offered by the South London and Maudsley Recovery College. This course is designed and co-facilitated by people with lived experience of homelessness and mental health difficulties and staff from SLAM Recovery College, The Supported Needs Assessment and Placement Team and organisations such as Ability Housing Association and the Croydon Rent in Advance Scheme. Companies such as CRIAS (Croydon Rent In Advance Scheme) can provide help in the form of a twelve month rent deposit bond guarantee and/or a month’s rent in advance payment direct to the landlord, subject to eligibility.

Ability Housing Association provides affordable housing to help people live more independently. Its general housing is designed for people who use wheelchairs.The homes meet or exceed the standards set by the Wheelchair Housing Design Guide. It also provides specially designed or adapted ‘accessible’ homes for people who have mobility, sensory or learning difficulties. Some of these homes include technology to help with daily living. Its supported housing schemes also include residential care, supported living, short-term supported housing and move-on housing.

This isn’t an easy road, but progress is encouraging

I have had the pleasure of working with all of the aforementioned organisations at some point in my career and I can see the progress being made within our borough for vulnerable adults and the move-on process. I have also worked with many inspiring individuals who dedicate their spare time to the cause and continue to do so selflessly.

Although this is by no means an easy road, it is encouraging to see the progress that is being made and it gives me hope that independent living will be something that is achievable for everyone in the near future, if we all continue to pull together in the spirit of community and equality.

As former US president Ronald Reagan once said, “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone”.

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Sarah Robson

Sarah Robson

Born and bred in Croydon, Sarah has been working in the housing sector for the last three years. She currently works as a Housing Performance and Information Officer for a Housing Association as well as spending some of her spare time volunteering on community projects in Croydon. She is passionate about human rights, travelling, freedom of knowledge and most of all, her hometown.

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