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Bield to expand its retirement housing model

An ambitious service aiming to remodel traditional sheltered housing is to be expanded across Scotland.

Social care and housing provider Bield last year became the first landlord in Scotland to modernise all of its sheltered housing services, offering residents a new Retirement Housing service instead.

The service offers housing and tenancy support in specially designed accommodation, which Bield argues is better suited to the individual while still being affordable.

Initially launched across 19 Bield developments in Edinburgh, Fife and Argyll & Bute, it will now be rolled out across 32 developments in 10 other regions over 2014.

By 2015, 79 Bield developments across Scotland will deliver the Retirement Housing model.

Amanda Miller, Bield's Director of Housing Services, said the initiative was likely to be closely watched in the social housing sector.

She said: "Sheltered housing has been at the forefront of Bield's services for more than 40 years, but the way we look after our older people is changing.

"Older people are living longer - and want to remain in their own homes and receive personalised services.

"As part of this emerging trend, local authorities are also changing their approach to sheltered housing and are increasingly moving away from funding these services." Funding from local authorities and Housing Support grants also differs across Scotland, making it difficult to operate a consistent sheltered housing model, she said.

"Retirement Housing allows us to move away from the 'one size fits all' approach and confusing funding structure, to give people a personalised tenancy service that is tailored to meet their specific needs."

A six-month implementation and consultation phase is carried out at each development, which includes information meetings to outline the changes, and the offer of one-to-one sessions with individual tenants to determine whether they require additional housing or personalised care and/or support.

Bield has also helped to create Tenant Focus Groups at developments affected, which it says have proved extremely beneficial for all parties. Tenant lead groups provide a sounding board while change is being planned and taking place, but also provide an opportunity for tenants to get together and make decisions about what happens at their development, such as social events and activities.

The new service does involve changes in staff provision and responsibilities which, although providing many improvements, impacts on the ability to provide on call/morning call cover and the organisation of social activities.

Bield has responded by developing a daily contact service called The Sure Call Service, delivered by its in-house 24-hour response team. Tenants receive a call at a pre-agreed time - and if there is no response to the first two calls, BR24 will either contact local staff or out of hours family contacts.

The new service model has been introduced at Edinburgh's Brookwell Court where 29 tenants have made the switch to retirement housing and say they have noticed significant improvements since it was rolled out on April 1, 2013.

In particular, the tenants are enjoying the opportunity to take part in more social activities driven by the creation of the Tenant Focus Group.

May Carrigan, an 82-year-old tenant at Brookwell Court in the city's Muirhouse area for almost 20 years, said: "The new retirement housing service has made such a fantastic difference to all of our lives here at Brookwell Court. Until a few months ago, there wasn't a lot for us to do but sit in the lounge. Now we're spoilt for choice. There's everything from coffee mornings to Christmas dinners and everyone is generally becoming a lot more social, interacting with each other and coming up with new ideas for activities we want to do. There's a lot more freedom for us to decide what we want to do.

"This new model has definitely brought a new lease of life to the service and created a much more positive place to live."

Jan Chapman, who has worked for Bield for 27 years and is the Retirement Housing manager at Brookwell Court, said increased staffing had also helped.

"The feedback so far from tenants has been brilliant. The fact we are at the service more gives tenants greater confidence that everything is being taken care of and helps us oversee things a bit better."

Amanda Miller added: "We are now looking forward to seeing our Retirement Housing service roll out across Scotland.

"We believe it embodies our approach to deliver creative, alternative options to face the growing demands of an ageing Scottish population, enabling them to remain independent for as long as possible."

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