Empty rooms could result in some of Lancashire's supported housing schemes being "decommissioned"

The number of long-term vacancies in supported housing schemes in Lancashire could see some of them close.

Lancashire County Council is to launch a consultation into the action which it should take if any of the 700 rented properties, which provide a home and round-the-clock support to vulnerable adults, is found no longer to be viable.

Lancashire County Council provides supported accommodation for vulnerable people by renting out properties - but many of them have vacancies

Lancashire County Council provides supported accommodation for vulnerable people by renting out properties - but many of them have vacancies

Currently, there are a total of 225 vacancies across 160 individual facilities in the county.

The authority’s cabinet heard that “strenuous efforts” are being made to find people to fill the available places. But it is thought unlikely that vacancies will be filled if they have existed for more than a year.

Suitable alternative accommodation would have to be found before an individual could be asked to move elsewhere and it is suggested that an assessment of their social care needs is carried out at the same time as any review of their supported housing.

“[We] can’t go on running...houses with only one person in them - the council can’t keep paying for empty rooms,” said Graham Gooch, Conservative cabinet member for adult services.

“You’ve got to be realistic about this and it may be that we have to find alternative accommodation - but that will be on a case-by-case basis and we’ll do everything we can to work with the people [affected] and their relatives.”

Other factors will also be considered when deciding whether a property is “non-viable”, including its condition and ability to meet the needs of its residents. “Every effort” is to be made to adapt facilities where appropriate.

Members heard that vacancies could also have a financial impact on remaining tenants, who become liable for a greater share of the household bills.

Deputy Labour opposition leader John Fillis called for the “power of persuasion” to be used if an individual's home is found not to be viable.

“I’d rather have a more person-to-person approach. Most people are rationale and are prepared to work with us and I’d rather see that built in [to the proposals] far heavier,” he said.

Council leader Geoff Driver said that the issue would be discussed further when the results of the consultation with residents and care providers are received. The start date for the eight-week process has not yet been decided.

Papers presented to cabinet revealed that individuals would be able to challenge any decision to decommission a supported housing facility via the county council’s complaints process - beyond their existing rights as a tenant.

The authority recently launched a new strategy for supported housing, which seeks to introduce more “apartment-based” schemes, in which residents each have their own front door and greater privacy and independence.