Sheltered Housing Tenants Launch Human Rights Monitoring Group

Tenants in City of Edinburgh Council sheltered housing properties today launched their intention to monitor performance in Council sheltered housing services every three months at an interactive conference in the City Chambers.

Following a survey of 141 tenants across the city, sheltered housing tenants have set indicators about how they want services to improve and want to meet quarterly with Council officials to take forward their recommendations.

Many of the survey responses highlight a positive service from the City of Edinburgh Council, including that 85% of tenants felt their accommodation met their needs, 93% said they felt safe in their home/communal area and most rated the condition of their property 4 out of 5.

However, some findings have been hard-hitting, highlighting serious human rights concerns for older people.

  • 45% were not satisfied with the Council’s response when reporting repairs
  • 25% said that the CATS emergency call out service does not represent good value for money
  • Loneliness and isolation is a key indicator of health and wellbeing in older years, and 42% of sheltered housing tenants said they felt lonely or sometimes lonely.
  • Tenants were also concerned about cover by housing support officers, with 41% indicating there was no cover when their warden was off.

Nicol Johnstone, Convenor of the Sheltered Housing Liaison Group commented that: “We interviewed some tenants whose accommodation clearly did not meet their needs. We spoke to a tenant who is in a wheelchair at home up a flight of stairs who is house-bound. That’s just not good enough. We have a right to an adequate standard of housing including accessible homes and under the UN Disability Convention, disabled people should have accessible support and services which enable them to live independently.”

Mr Johnstone added, “I want to recognise the work of sheltered housing tenant volunteers in carrying out this research work. We’ve been raising issues consistently with the Council over several years. The results of our survey show where human rights are not being met, and we have now set the indicators that we want to see improve. We look forward to working with the Council to positively address these issues.”

Cllr Ricky Henderson, Chair of the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board said, “The Health and Social Care Partnership is keen to work with the Sheltered Housing Liaison Group to meet the care and support needs of our sheltered housing tenants. We understand that suitable housing is fundamental to the general health and wellbeing of all residents. There are opportunities for greater joint working to ensure that tenants are supported to live independently in their communities and do not experience loneliness and isolation.

The Partnership has recently concluded a review of the community alarm and equipment services and will be implementing changes over the next 12 months to improve quality and value for money. We also plan to transform our Sheltered Housing Support Services over the next few years, with the team already starting engagement with tenants. We will also engage with the Liaison Group, and undertake wider consultation to hear the views of all tenants who live in these valued communities.”

The research and conference has drawn attention from international observers at the UN, with Virginia Bras Gomes, Chair of the UN Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights commenting, “Home is the place where we feel physically safe and emotionally nurtured – at peace!

The right to housing is an essential element of the right to an adequate standard of living enshrined in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It is therefore the obligation of public authorities to ensure that individuals and families have access to houses that they can call home.

This aspiration is at the heart of the action research being carried out by the sheltered housing tenants’ human rights monitoring group. They have brought to life one of the fundamental human rights principles – that of participation. I hope the Council will ensure the accountability they now need to make this an exemplary project of how to bring human rights home.”