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Housing with support: A guide for social workers

Published: April 2024


This is a comprehensive guide designed to support social workers in their mission to secure suitable housing with support services for vulnerable individuals. Housing is not just a basic need; it is a fundamental building block for a stable and fulfilling life. In this guide, we will explore a range of housing options, offer guidelines for assessing individual needs, demystify funding sources, and share inspiring case studies.

As a social worker, your role is pivotal in transforming lives through housing solutions. Our aim is to equip you with knowledge and strategies to navigate complex housing support issues. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting your career, this guide is your trusted companion.

What is housing with support?

Housing with support is a transformative concept that holds the potential to change the lives of vulnerable individuals. As a social worker, you are at the forefront of understanding and facilitating this critical aspect of human wellbeing. But what exactly does housing with support encompass, and why is it paramount in your line of work?

Housing with support, can also be known as sheltered housing/retirement housing. It is an umbrella/inclusive term that encompasses a range of housing models designed to provide individuals with the appropriate level of assistance and support to maintain or regain their independence and improve their quality of life. This concept is often referred to by various names and includes sheltered housing, retirement flats, retirement bungalows and warden-assisted housing. [Links to different terms].

Housing with support represents an integrated approach that addresses the fundamental need for shelter while recognising that, for many individuals, the journey towards stability and independence is marked by unique challenges. It’s a dynamic blend of secure housing and tailored support services designed to empower individuals with diverse backgrounds and needs.

Housing with support offers older people independent living in self-contained housing with the knowledge that support is available if required. The accommodation consists of purpose-built, self-contained homes, usually flats or bungalows or occasionally luxury apartments, for sale, shared ownership or rent. The support offered is usually limited to help from a scheme manager (warden), or support staff and 24-hour emergency help through an alarm system which can be activated by pulling a chord or pressing a button on a pendent. Staff are not usually available 24 hours, and do not assist with personal care or carry out tasks like shopping or housework.

Housing with support offers a stepping stone between living completely independently and moving into housing with care or a care home. Facilities often, but not always include communal areas, such as gardens or lounges and there may be social activities for the people living there. Schemes may also have a guest bedroom which visitors can use for an overnight stay.

This concept acknowledges that housing extends far beyond the physical structure. It is the cornerstone upon which individuals build their lives, pursue their aspirations, and develop a sense of belonging. Housing with Support recognises that the right home, combined with the right support, can unlock opportunities, restore dignity, and foster self-sufficiency.

You need the knowledge, skills, and insights required to champion the housing needs of your clients. Together, we will delve into various housing options, assessment techniques, funding avenues, and inspiring case studies that underpin the transformative potential of this approach. You will be armed to make a profound difference in the lives of those you serve, ushering them toward a brighter, more secure future, one home at a time.

Overview of housing options with support services

Imagine having a wide array of housing options, each tailored to cater to specific support needs. This section will provide you with an understanding of the various housing models available for your clients.

Sheltered housing: Sheltered housing, also known as retirement or senior housing, is designed for older adults seeking a safe and sociable living environment. Residents have access to communal facilities and emergency support while maintaining their independence.

Extra care housing: Extra care housing bridges the gap between independent living and residential care. It provides personalised care and support, including 24-hour staff assistance, for individuals with complex needs. This model promotes dignity and autonomy.

Group homes: Group homes are shared living arrangements where individuals with similar support requirements live together under the supervision of trained staff. It fosters a sense of community and peer support.

Transitional housing: Designed for individuals who need temporary support while transitioning from homelessness or institutional care to permanent housing.

Supported apartments: Individuals live independently in their apartments while having access to on-site support services.

Residential care facilities: Suitable for those with more complex medical needs who require round-the-clock care.

Independent living in the community: For those who can live independently with minimal support, independent living in the community offers freedom and self-sufficiency. Social workers play a crucial role in connecting clients with community resources and services.

The terminology used may vary by region or country, and local governments or organisations may have their own names and classifications for these housing models. Nevertheless, the underlying principle remains consistent: to provide safe, supportive, and empowering housing solutions that enable individuals to lead fulfilling lives while receiving the necessary assistance and care to meet their unique needs. Social workers play a crucial role in assessing, advocating for, and facilitating access to these housing options, ensuring that each individual finds the right fit for their circumstances.

Each housing option has its unique features and benefits, making it crucial for social workers to understand these choices thoroughly. Your ability to match the right housing option with an individual’s aspirations and needs can be life-changing.

There are many different types of sheltered /retirement housing both to rent and to buy. Schemes usually consist of between 15 and 60 self-contained homes which may be bedsits (studios), flats, bungalows or luxury apartments.

Schemes usually consist of between 15 and 60 self-contained homes which may be bedsits (studios), flats, bungalows or luxury apartments.
There are approximately 363,000 housing-with-support units in England and Wales although the figures on this can vary depending on the definitions used.

Guidelines for assessing individual needs

As a social worker, your role in assessing the needs of individuals seeking housing with support and determining suitable solutions is pivotal in enhancing their quality of life. This comprehensive set of guidelines will enable you to effectively navigate this process, ensuring that each client receives the most appropriate housing solution tailored to their unique circumstances.

The following provides guidance on how to conduct assessments effectively, ensuring your clients receive housing solutions that truly meet their requirements.

Determining suitable housing solutions

Person centered planning: Embrace person-centered planning, placing the individual at the forefront of decision-making. Work collaboratively to identify their goals, preferences, and aspirations regarding housing.

Match needs to housing models: Align the individual’s assessed needs with appropriate housing models. Consider factors such as the level of support required, accessibility features, and location preferences.

Cultural competence: Recognise the significance of cultural competence when determining suitable solutions. Respect and honour cultural, linguistic, and religious preferences in the housing selection process.

Interdisciplinary collaboration: Collaborate with healthcare professionals, therapists, and community organisations to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the individual’s needs and aspirations. This interdisciplinary approach helps identify suitable solutions more effectively.

Consider the transition: Evaluate the transition process carefully, especially if the individual is moving from one housing arrangement to another. Ensure a seamless transition plan that minimises disruptions and supports emotional wellbeing.

Community integration: Encourage community integration by selecting housing solutions that promote social connections and participation in local activities. This fosters a sense of belonging and enhances overall wellbeing.

Financial consideration: Assess the individual’s financial situation and explore funding options and subsidies that can support their chosen housing arrangement. Ensure they are aware of available financial resources.

Advocacy and support: Advocate on behalf of the individual to secure the chosen housing option. Provide support in navigating the application process, dealing with bureaucracy, and addressing any barriers that may arise.

Regular reviews: Establish a system for regular reviews of the chosen housing solution. This ensures that the individual’s needs continue to be met and that any necessary adjustments are made promptly.

By adhering to these guidelines, you empower yourself as a social worker to serve as a steadfast advocate for your clients, ensuring that they find housing solutions that not only meet their immediate needs but also contribute to their long-term wellbeing and independence. Your commitment to person-centered care and your ability to navigate the complexities of the housing landscape make a profound difference in the lives of those you serve.

Information on funding options and financial support

Funding options and financial support for housing with support, especially for individuals assessed by social workers to determine their needs and suitable solutions, primarily fall under the purview of local authorities, housing associations and government agencies. Demand can be high in some parts of the country.  

Funding can often be a stumbling block on the path to suitable housing with support. This section provides a comprehensive overview of the financial landscape and available support mechanisms.

Understanding funding options and financial support for housing with support is a critical aspect of your role as a social worker. This comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge and strategies needed to navigate the complex landscape of financial assistance, ensuring that your clients can access the housing solutions they require while alleviating financial burdens.

Some people are eligible for the housing benefit part of Universal Credit to help pay rent. Housing benefit can also cover some or all of the service charge, provided the person’s income and capital is low enough, and as long as the payment of service charges is a condition of occupying the accommodation, rather than an optional extra. Council tax, water rates and energy bills are usually additional costs.

The cost of some or all of a person’s care and support may be available through the local authority or sometimes via NHS funding.

Local authority housing

Housing benefit of Universal Credit

Supportive housing schemes

Disability benefits

Non-profit organisations, grants and charities

Many non-profits offer grants or subsidies for housing with support services. Research and establish connections with these organisations to access resources for your clients.

Various grants and charitable organisations offer financial assistance for housing-related needs, especially for individuals with specific conditions or situations. Social workers can help identify suitable grants and charities and assist in the application process.

Navigating the funding landscape

Case studies highlighting successful independent living arrangements


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