6. Need for an Adapted or Accessible Property
This section looks at how social landlords can meet the needs of people looking for an adapted or accessible property through their allocation policy and associated practice.
By working through this section readers will:
- understand the case for giving priority to people who need an adapted or accessible property.
- know about how a landlord can assess and prioritise applicants' need for an adapted or accessible property.
- be aware of the advantages of taking a collaborative approach when allocating adapted or accessible properties.
6.1 The case for and nature of priority
An allocation policy should recognise that some people will need an adapted or accessible property and ensure that people requiring one of these properties are given priority.
At any age, being able to continue to live independently depends on the suitability of someone's home and may require a move to a home that better suits their needs. Where applicants need for an accessible or adapted property, they may also benefit from being nearer to family and support networks, health services, shopping facilities or transport links.
People of any age can need an adapted or accessible property, but most of those applying for social housing are likely to be in the older age group.
Age, home and community: a strategy for housing for Scotland's older people 2012-2021 notes the Scottish Government's longstanding policy of 'shifting the balance of care', supporting people to remain at home independently for as long as possible.
The Scottish Government's Age, Home and Community: next phase, was published in August 2018. It sets out a vision for older people in Scotland to enjoy full and positive lives in homes that meet their needs. It sets out three principles: Right Advice, Right Home and Right Support and notes that it is important that older people's housing strategy connects with other policies that affect older people, with clear outcomes and measurable actions. The strategy is available at: https://beta.gov.scot/publications/age-home-community-next-phase/
The Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland (EHRC Scotland) also highlighted the housing challenges disabled people face in its 2018 report, Housing and disabled people: Scotland's hidden crisis. The report is available from the EHRC's website at: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/publication-download/housing-and-disabled-people-scotlands-hidden-crisis
Landlords play a key role in helping people find a home that meets their health and disability-related needs. The Integration of Health and Social Care has placed a greater emphasis on joining up services and focussing on anticipating people's needs. Housing has a key role to play in helping people find a new home before their current one becomes completely unsuitable.
It is important to remember that priority based on needing an adapted or accessible property is designed to address housing need and should only be given if a move would address that need. Where, for example, someone lives in a property with stairs which they cannot manage due to their health or disability, a landlord would not give them priority if they wished to move to a similar property. However, where suitable properties are in very short supply, the landlord could award priority for a move which would not entirely meet someone's housing needs, but which would improve their situation.
Where the health need or disability is expected to be short term, or where someone's current property can be adapted to make it suitable for them, landlords do not usually give priority for rehousing to an adapted or accessible property.
6.2 Assessing need for an adapted or accessible property
Landlords use a range of ways to assess and prioritise applicants' need for an adapted or accessible property. An effective assessment procedure should be person-centred and have the following features:
- good communication and close links between housing staff, social workers, occupational therapists and other relevant professionals. A protocol setting out roles and timescales may be useful.
- medical advice sought only when necessary.
- recommendations which are based on a comprehensive assessment of the applicant's needs.
- a fair and consistent process.
- clearly set out timescales for assessment and decision making.
- accountability for decision making.
Many landlords use housing management staff to make assessments and the information contained in the self-assessment form and a home visit, where necessary, should be enough for them to decide on whether priority should be awarded.
Some landlords use a Local Authority Occupational Health service or other professionals to assess applicants' needs for an adapted or accessible property. If taking this approach, it will be important that any time taken to carry out the assessment does not lead to delays in processing applications.
Practice example - Assessing health and housing needs, Wheatley Group
The Wheatley Group has recently reviewed how it collects information from its customers in relation to their medical conditions and their housing needs. The emphasis has shifted from looking solely at the applicant's medical condition to looking at their home and whether or not it can be made suitable for the customer's needs. The Wheatley Group has reviewed its method of assessing the more difficult medical conditions: where previously it would have used an external medical company, it is now trialling an in-house method utilising the knowledge of the occupational therapist seconded to the Wheatley Group.
The key principle is that the process of awarding priority on health or disability grounds is transparent and consistent and avoids the applicant having to go through repeated assessment processes wherever possible.
In assessing priority for an adapted or accessible home, landlords should consider two factors:
- the severity of the person's condition or the degree of incapacity; and
- the extent to which re-housing will benefit the person concerned.
Most landlords adopt a priority ranking system, usually high, medium, and low (often then associated with the award of points). Within the constraints of the properties available, the priority given should allow people whose current home is most unsuitable for their needs to be rehoused as quickly as possible.
It is also important that any property offered meets the applicant's particular requirements. As part of the assessment process, the property features an applicant needs will have been identified. For example, they might need a ground floor, accessible property or they may require an adapted bathroom or a bathroom which can be adapted to suit their needs.
Applicants may also have developing needs and, if possible, landlords should aim to offer them a property which will meet those future needs and reduce the likelihood of another move being required.
6.3 Collaborative approaches to meeting needs for an adapted or accessible property
The Integration of Health and Social Care has placed a greater emphasis on joining up services and focussing on anticipating future needs, with housing having a key role to play.
The housing contribution to the Integration of Health and Social Care
The Scottish Government's Statutory Guidance to Integration Authorities, Health Boards and Local Authorities sets out their responsibilities to involve housing services in the Integration of Health and Social Care, to support the achievement of the National Health and Wellbeing Outcomes. The Guidance can be found on the Scottish Government's website at: https://beta.gov.scot/publications/housing-advice-note/
The Statutory Guidance provides examples of housing services which contribute to the achievement of the Health and Wellbeing outcomes. These include:
- providing and maintaining modern homes which meet the diverse needs of tenants, including those with needs.
- giving advice to those facing difficulties with their housing, including those facing increasing frailty and those at risk of homelessness; this can include advice on housing choices, welfare advice, advocacy support, befriending services, and assistance in finding alternative housing.
- for those who do become homeless, providing emergency accommodation, temporary accommodation and settled accommodation, in each case with the appropriate level of housing support.
Further information about the vital role housing needs to play can be found at the Place, Home and Housing section of the ihub website at: https://ihub.scot/place-home-and-housing/
There should be a clear focus on supporting people who want to continue to live independently in their current home where this is possible. This could be achieved by adapting their current home to meet their needs and providing support services such as assisted living technology and social care services.
There will, however, be occasions when a move of home is required to allow someone to carry on living independently with or without support. In the best circumstances moving to a new home will happen in a planned and managed way under the landlord's allocation policy. As with under-occupation driven moves, people may need help to make that move and landlords may wish to work with others, such as social services, to offer that support.
There will also be occasions when re-housing is required urgently, for example when following hospital admission someone is unable to return home because it no longer meets their needs. In these cases, landlords should award the very highest level of priority under their policy to ensure that a move can be made as quickly as possible. Managing these cases will require co-ordination of a range of services to ensure that appropriate support is in place to allow the person to live independently. This is likely to include housing, social care services and telecare services.
Practice example - Housing Options for Older People (HOOP) approach, Wheatley Group
The Housing Options for Older People (HOOP) approach builds on the wider housing options work carried out in the city. It is funded by Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership (GHSCP) to help prevent delayed hospital discharge and facilitate move on from Intermediate Care. The aim is to help older people live independently at home or in a homely setting for as long as possible.
HOOP considers the individual circumstances of older people, their housing and personal needs and helps them make informed choices, in discussion with their families and carers, often at a time of very significant change in their lives.
For the first time in Glasgow, housing staff from HOOP are co-working alongside Health and Social Work colleagues in hospitals, Social Work offices and Intermediate Care Units to help them navigate housing pathways.
They deliver high quality advice and support to generate creative solutions to meet older people's changing health and social care needs enabling access to the widest range of housing options possible, irrespective of tenure type.
HOOP also works with more than half of the city's RSLs to maximise and target the usage of appropriate housing stock minimising void rents.
The Wheatley Group has reviewed and changed its allocation policy to prioritise its Wheatley customers delayed in hospital because of unsuitable housing. A number of the other RSLs partners are reviewing their allocation policies to similarly support customers delayed in hospital because of unsuitable housing.
By early 2018, HOOP had worked with Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership (GHSCP) and RSL colleagues to help over 950 older people in Glasgow to return home or find a new home. They have also shared customer need and demand information with Regeneration colleagues to help inform the Wheatley Group's New Build programme.
Any allocation policy is highly likely to recognise health and disability-related housing needs, with many applicants wanting to be re-housed because they have a health condition or a disability which makes their current home unsuitable.
It is important to remember that priority based on health or disability grounds is designed to address housing need and should only be given if a move would address that need. Priority on health or disability grounds is an area where it is extremely important that landlords manage applicants' expectations.
There will be many occasions when a move of home is required to allow someone to carry on living independently for the long term with or without support.
In the best circumstance, moving to a new home should happen in a planned and managed way with sufficient priority awarded under the landlord's allocation policy.
Landlords will want to work with others to ensure they make best use of any accessible or adapted stock. They will also want to work collaboratively with partners in the health and social care sectors to help those who need an urgent move, for example to be able to leave hospital.
Email: Claire McHarrie