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Pembrokeshire CC's sheltered housing and lifeline service is described as a 'fair service with uncertain prospects ...
Pembrokeshire CC's sheltered housing and lifeline service is described as a 'fair service with uncertain prospects for improvement' in an independent report published today by the Audit Commission in Wales.

Independent inspectors from the Audit Commission Inspection Team gave the services a one star rating because whilst people who use them are broadly satisfied with what's provided, there are a number of areas that need attention.

Roy Irwin, chief housing inspector for Wales and England said:

'Pembrokeshire's sheltered housing and lifeline services provide valuable support to a vulnerable section of the community. The wardens that help provide these services should be praised for their commitment and professionalism.

'But there are a number of issues to be resolved to ensure that these important services improve. The council should develop clear aims and objectives outlining the role of the services in the wider context of services for the elderly, and establish clear priorities for dealing with the maintenance and access problems in some sheltered schemes.'

The inspection report identifies a number of positive features of the services:

- The wardens are committed, caring and professional and are well-liked by residents

- People who use the services are broadly happy with what's on offer

- Most sheltered schemes are in a reasonable state of repair

- The Lifeline alarm system works efficiently and promptly

However, inspectors also identified aspects of the Services that need attention, including:

- There are no clear aims and objectives outlining the role of the services in the wider context of services for the elderly

- There is no relief warden service, so residents may not see their warden for long periods, for example during holidays

- There is a lack of social events for many residents

- There are serious access difficulties for many of the housing schemes

- There is no planned maintenance scheme for sheltered housing

- Some sheltered housing units have not been occupied for a long time, and the council has no strategy for dealing with this

Inspectors felt that there were a number of barriers to improvement in the services, including:

- The council intends to evaluate only five sheltered housing schemes in the next five years, and this may not address the most urgent problems

- No performance indicators have been adopted for the services, making it difficult to see if the services are improving

- The council does not regularly consult people who use the services

- There is currently no strategic vision for the services

Recommendations made by inspectors to help the service improve included:

- Developing a strategic vision for sheltered housing in Pembrokeshire

- Comparing the costs of the Services with that provided by other organisations

- Carrying out a detailed survey of sheltered housing schemes to help prioritise improvements

- Introducing a warden relief scheme

- Taking urgent action to resolve access difficulties

- Examining how social events can be developed

Pembrokeshire's sheltered housing and lifeline services include:

Sheltered housing - the council owns and manages 13 sheltered housing schemes providing warden services to 433 homes. In addition a peripatetic warden service is provided to 212 homes scattered throughout the county. The gross cost of the service in 2000/01 was£306,010.

Lifeline service - This is a community alarm service that allows eligible residents to request emergency assistance - there are currently 2500 users. The gross cost of the service was£101,965 in 2001/02.

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