Peopletoo blog: The right accomodation for vulnerable people

CCN Blogs | 20 December 2019

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It is apparent that the accommodation available to vulnerable people in combination with the support they receive, significantly impacts an individual’s ability to remain independent and to live a fulfilling and active life. However, providing the right accommodation for vulnerable people, in the right place and at the right time continues to be a challenge for local authorities and their partners, particularly in relation to working age adults and transitioning young people.

A lack of alternative provision is not only increasing the cost of placements for local authorities, but all too often is driving the wrong behaviour. The result of this is that vulnerable people are being placed in accommodation that may not necessarily be delivering the best outcomes for the individual, or best value for the local authority.

Post 16 accommodation is often high cost and not geared toward supporting young people to develop the necessary skills to take on their own tenancies in their local communities. This can make transition even more challenging for a young person. We hear too many stories of young people reaching a cliff edge when they hit 18, which often results in a crisis. It is therefore imperative that every young person who is looked after, has the opportunity to excel. Supporting them to develop the skills to live as independently as possible is a strong foundation to achieving this.

A young person with an assessed need who transitions to Adult Social Care can often find themselves in supported living accommodation sharing a property with a mixed age group with varied needs. Too often, this is driven as a result of needing to fill voids without consideration as to whether the accommodation is the right fit to support the young person to achieve their goals/ aspirations. We therefore need to ask ourselves whether this the right environment to transition a young person into? There is a risk that the level of needs in this house creates an institutionalised environment rather than an environment of progressive support, where the primary goal is to increase, wherever practical, a person’s independence and ability to integrate within their community,

Once in this type of accommodation there is a desire to ensure a stable environment, but this can subsequently encourage a ‘home for life’ mentality which does not encourage people to “move on” into independence.’ With improving life expectancy for people with learning disabilities, we are seeing more people living in shared houses with very complex needs, further exacerbated by deteriorating frailty and or mental health. With consideration of the other end of the age spectrum, we also need to challenge whether the desire to secure a ‘home for life’ is the right one. Would we make the decision to stay in an environment which no longer met our needs?

So, in an era where budgets are stretched and capacity is limited, how do we tackle this? Our answer to this is ‘whole life planning’, preparing for each key stage of a person’s life with the individual and their family and carers, but as a whole system and not in isolation.

Undertaking a comprehensive needs analysis across Children’s and Adult Services, in order to ascertain the likely demand and level of need likely to hit the system is crucial. This should take a long term view over the next 10 to 15 years, which can then be used to inform the commissioning strategy.

Co-produced with service users, carers, partners including providers, this strategy should form the basis of the market development plan and inform the type of provision that is needed in the medium to long term. There are some great examples from both here in the UK and abroad of how ‘step up’ and ‘step down’ accommodation, as well as flexible  accommodation that can adapt to a person’s changing needs, can form a key part of the overall provision for vulnerable adults and young people.

Whilst the makeup of this may vary in different local authorities, to ensure the right accommodation for vulnerable people is provided, it is  important that some key principles in the development of this approach are applied:

  • Promotion of system wide whole life planning to support key stages in the person’s life, with the individual at the centre.
  • Changes to structures that will allow for greater sharing of skills, knowledge and resources and facilitate smoother transitions particularly between Children’s and Adult services.
  • Development of a clear pathway for young people transitioning to adulthood. The key objective being to maximise independence and support as appropriate and for people to obtain their own tenancies within the community.
  • A change in behaviour that sees a move away from ‘homes for life’ to the right accommodation to best support an individual’s needs at that point in time.
  • Developing a ‘move on accommodation model’ to support either step down to own tenancies with light touch support or step up where a person’s needs increase.
  • Development of flexible accommodation models that can adapt as a person’s needs change.
  • Increase use of shared lives as part of the overall offer and to support step down as well as step up, particularly where there are aging carers.

We know that none of the above are ‘quick fixes’ and that a number will require investment. However, when we start to look at the market as it stands currently, without this forward planning we will continue to see the cost of placements for these individuals ‘rocket’. Forward planning will enable local authorities to create capacity and manage the market more effectively. Over the medium to long term, this will provide a significant return on investment as well as improved outcomes for vulnerable people.

Article written by: Maggie Kenney, Chief Executive and Peopletoo colleagues