Chief Executive Frank Czarnowski took the opportunity to highlight the value of supported housing when Dartford MP Gareth Johnson visited Wellfield Community Hall in Hartley to mark Starts at Home day.
The MP was joined by a number of representatives from Sevenoaks District Council, which has restated its commitment to sheltered housing in its latest housing strategy.
Frank told the MP and other guests, including a number of Wellfield tenants, that West Kent had built 244 new supported housing units across Kent in the past year, most of them in Extra Care schemes for older people but including a number of supported homes for people with learning disabilities.
“We are committed to delivering adaptable supported housing schemes that are flexible enough to support tenants with varying care needs,” he explained. “We aim to deliver supportive communities where people can retain their independence but with the reassurance that care is available when they need it.”
Frank also stressed that the government needed to share the commitment to supported housing "by putting funding on a secure and sustainable footing to enable much needed schemes to go ahead".
He added: “The government has guaranteed funding for supported housing until 2019, but there are doubts about what happens after that because of proposed welfare changes. New schemes that would provide much-needed supported homes are on hold in many areas of the country and will remain so until the uncertainty over the planned changes to funding is resolved.”
Wellfield Community Hall is a busy and popular volunteer-run facility that is well used by the local over-55s who live in the 24 flats and nine bungalows that make up our Emerald scheme at Wellfield.
Sevenoaks Council Chairman Cllr Larry Abraham opened the event and paid tribute to community warden Jackie West and a number of volunteers, led by resident Veronica McGannon, who have made the refurbished community hall such a vital part of the community. He described it as “a great example of what can be achieved with the right people”. Residents use the hall regularly for activities including a carers’ café, bingo, knitting and crochet club, a monthly lunch club and a weekly pop-in session.
The council’s Portfolio Holder for Housing and Health, Cllr Michelle Lowe, said schemes like Wellfield were “key to preventing hospital admissions and homelessness as well as enabling people to live better quality, independent lives”.
She went on: “Supported housing can cover a range of different groups. It can be for older people - such as this scheme; it can be for young people coming out of the care system and learning how to budget, cook and run a home; it can be for people with mental and/or physical disabilities or armed forces adjusting to civilian life - and yet more different groups of people.”
Cllr Lowe added: “West Kent runs a number of schemes in our district - most of which I would love to live in.”
The event at Wellfield also gave residents the opportunity to save money on their energy bills by talking to council staff about the Sevenoaks Switch and Save service.