Changes to sheltered housing charging policy

Aberdeen City Council is introducing a new charging policy for sheltered housing to ensure all tenants are paying the same amount for the same service.

The changes will affect all amenity, sheltered and very sheltered housing service fees and are being rolled out following extensive consultation with residents.

The amendments are designed to address historic differences and also to reflect the views of a majority of tenants surveyed that the current system is unfair.

At the same time, charges are being reduced for the majority of residents from 75% of the cost of the service to 50% of the cost. The other 50% is met by the City Council

Aberdeen City Council's Convener of Finance, Policy and Resources, Councillor Willie Young, said: "Work on this project has been taking place for a number of years now.

"We have consulted with tenants who attend the Sheltered Housing Committee and Network and there have been various articles in the Sheltered Housing Newsbite.

"There was also a tenant survey conducted previously and the majority of tenants who took part thought the current charging policy was unfair, which has been a consistent message from tenants of sheltered housing.

"While the new system will be fairer, we understand that people may have questions so our housing officers and senior carers will be on hand to offer advice."

Councillors agreed to progress with the new charges at a meeting in February 2015.

Letters have been issued to all tenants to advise that the new charges are being phased in so that from October 2016, all tenants will be charged the same amount for the same service, subject to their ability to pay.

The letters included a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) but tenants will also be offered the chance to meet their senior carer or housing officer to discuss it further.

There are a number of exemptions currently in place. Tenants who signed their tenancy before April 2003 did not pay a separate charge as the housing support service was paid for by rent pooling and the from the council's general fund.

The Housing (Scotland) Act 2003 stopped landlords from including a cost of a housing support service within the rent, so a separate charge is now made.

From 2003, the City Council initially chose to exempt tenants who were in receipt of transitional housing benefit. All new sheltered and very sheltered housing tenants from April 2006 have had to pay a separate charge, however.

The current charge to non-exempt tenants is £19.70 per week for sheltered housing residents and £29.26 per week for very sheltered housing tenants.

The new charge from October 5 will be £12.78 for Aberdeen City Council sheltered housing tenants and £34.76 for very sheltered tenants.

Exempt tenants will be charged £6.39 per week for sheltered housing and £17.38 per week for very sheltered housing from October 5 this year, which will then increase to match the charges paid by non-exempt tenants at £12.78 per week for sheltered housing and £34.76 per week for very sheltered housing by October 2016.

Registered Social Landlord (RSL) tenants will also pay 50% of the cost of services, as opposed to 75% at present.

Tenants are being advised that help is at hand, and anyone with any concerns can contact their senior carer or housing officer, who will arrange a meeting.

For RSL tenants, they will have the chance to speak to their housing officer or Aberdeen City Council.

Anyone who is having difficulty with paperwork or would like further advice on budgeting or benefits can contact the the Financial Inclusion Team.

Their advice line is open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm on 01224 522709 and they can be reached via e-mail at moneyadvice@aberdeencity.gov.uk