The Manchester service is a local authority run service offering housing related support to anyone over the age of 60 years. They work across tenures and with all the different housing providers in the city. Much of the work involves raising awareness of the different issues that affect older people face and to encourage understanding that with the right support, and if they want to, older people can generally be enabled to stay independent and in their own homes in the community.
They can work with people in sheltered housing but only if the needs identified are significantly different to the needs met by the scheme managers. They are divided into three areas, North, South and Central Manchester. They work on the basis of each support worker supporting 15 clients and are contracted to support 315 clients across the city. .
They go out to social care and health and community based agencies and the Generation project to promote the service they offer and encourage early referrals. Referrals come from housing officers, social services, mental health teams, hospital discharges, local community groups and self referrals. They link into local police and community wardens and local councillors and larger public events such as the Valuing Older People city wide event. They encourage a culture where housing providers pick up on the signs of support needs earlier rather then moving to take enforcement measures and referring as a last resort when a tenant is about to be taken to court .
There is an increasing culture of early intervention, income maximisation and benefits advice rather than arrears letters threatening eviction. Some of the housing associations employ financial inclusion officers to do this work and the Housing Support Service work closely with them to offer an integrated service
They are getting increasing numbers of referrals from owner occupiers and people in private rented sector but are aware that they are harder to reach.
They deal with a whole range of support issues, helping people to maintain a tenancy and keep them out of, or delay entry into, residential care is a significant part of the remit. They allocate cases on a points system and try to take into account the consequence of not intervening speedily as a key driver for how quickly someone gets seen. Support for people with alcohol issues and with dementia is significant as is bereavement. Typically a person may lose a partner who dealt with all the finances, budgeting and cooking and they are at a loss when facing practical issues. The team will help them set up payment plans, and deal with utilities.
The service used to be part of the housing department and is now part of adult social care, this makes more strategic sense as the City Council is no longer a major provider of housing. This is significantly changing the way in which they work, it is at an early stage it has resulted in a much better working relationship with adult social care and an easier system of referral for a care package. For instance to get crisis cleaning of a clients home or a day centre place they used to have to go through the contact centre to make a referral, now they are part of the same department and can make a swift referral. This is quite a culture change for the team.
If people do not qualify for care under Fair Access to Care Services but have a need for care services they will work to maximise their benefit and put them in touch with care providers and other services. As care costs rise people cannot necessarily afford to pay for care and there is an ongoing issue about willingness to pay for low level preventative services for people on a low income.
One ongoing difficulty is that there is a time limit of 2 years for support and they have to have eligible needs in relation to housing related support. Withdrawal of the services for people who have not become linked into a community network can push them back into social isolation.
HSS Over 60's Service, 115 Briscoe Lane, Newton Heath, Manchester, M40 2TP Tel 0161 277 1818