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Sheltered accommodation

Sheltered housing schemes (sometimes referred to as retirement housing) are aimed at people over 60 years of age, although some schemes are available for over 55s. They are self-contained, purpose-built flats, houses or bungalows with their own front doors, kitchens and bathrooms. They are available for couples or single people, and offer independent living with extra help if needed.

As a resident, you can come and go as you please, and usually only need to inform the scheme manager if you intend to be away overnight or won't be in when they are due to visit.

The facilities available vary depending on the individual scheme, but some have restaurants and guest rooms for family and friends. Many have communal areas such as a laundry room, lounge and gardens, and provide residents with opportunities for socialising with each other and the wider community.

They are run by scheme managers or wardens who may live on the site or work office hours. The scheme manager is there to help arrange suitable support for residents, manage any repair work on the properties, and help out in emergencies. They focus on residents' wellbeing and get to know them and listen to their concerns, but they don't provide personal care services or administer medication.

Residents also have access to 24-hour emergency care assistance via an alarm system linked to a monitoring centre, which will contact a family member, GP or emergency service if needed.

Eligibility for local authority and housing association schemes

Most sheltered housing properties are rented from local authorities or housing associations. There is a high demand for these homes and some will have waiting lists. Applicants often have to meet certain eligibility criteria to qualify. The person you care for will usually need to show that:

  • The condition of their current home doesn't meet their needs.
  • They have a medical or social need to move, such as an illness or disability, or they need to move to be nearer family.
  • They are unable to buy a property themselves and need to rent instead.
  • If they are an existing council or housing association tenant, they need to speak to their landlord about transferring to sheltered accommodation.

To apply for sheltered accommodation run by the council, they should contact their local housing department. There is a search facility available on GOV.UK to help you find contact details for your local authority that provides sheltered and supported housing.

To apply for housing association sheltered housing, they either need to be referred to a particular housing association by their local council or approach the housing association themselves to find out about availability.

Where to find out about private developments

Some private developers have sheltered housing properties that the person you care for can buy or part-buy through shared ownership schemes. These are advertised on the open market and are usually sold as leasehold properties. Some private developers also rent out these properties.

For more information on private providers of sheltered accommodation, see the Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) website or call First Stop on 0800 377 7070.

Extra costs to residents

As well as rent or mortgage, the person you care for will usually have to pay a monthly service charge to help cover the cost of the scheme manager and general maintenance work on communal areas.

Ask the scheme manager how much the service charge is for the accommodation they're considering, and check what is and isn't included in this charge before they decide either to rent or buy in a particular scheme.

Sheltered housing residents still have access to the normal means-tested local authority services.

What you need to consider

Moving into sheltered housing may offer more security and support than their current accommodation. However, it will involve moving out of their existing home and possibly living in a smaller space.

When looking for a suitable scheme, they should think about the style of the accommodation on offer, the quality of facilities available to residents, and the location of the site. It is advisable to visit the sheltered housing scheme they are considering and speak to the manager and some of the residents before making a final decision. The page on care homes has tips on choosing accommodation.

Age UK offers advice on what to think about when deciding whether to move into sheltered accommodation.

The Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) has developed a quality kitemark to encourage scheme managers to provide detailed information about their facilities to potential residents, their families and carers. For further details, see the EAC website.

If you would like to discuss your caring situation, you can call the Carers Direct helpline. It's free and confidential. Call 0300 123 1053.


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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

trevenson said on 12 April 2014

Can anyone tell me who i can contact, we have 19 en-suite apartments with communal kitchen and lounge and would like to know if the private care trust would be interested in renting it for care homes?
Kind Regards
Jackie mccall

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Page last reviewed: 19/08/2013

Next review due: 19/08/2015

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