MORE staff will be recruited at sheltered housing sites in Swindon - but full-time live-in wardens will not be returning.

The council approved a report which suggested ways to address safety concerns raised by people living in the schemes. The report showed 360 neighbours responded to the latest public consultations - a third of all tenants.

An action group organised by Swindon ACORN has been campaigning for permanent wardens to be reinstated. But most (55 per cent) of the people who took part in the consultations did not support their fees rising by £7.81 a week to pay for this staff member at each scheme.

Instead, a ‘cluster team model’ will deliver the service through the equivalent of three full-time roles funded by a weekly fee increase of £1.50 a week for 48 weeks.

Before the meeting in which this was approved, campaigners made a last-ditch effort to make their voices heard. One sign read ‘Wardens keep our community together, give safety and peace of mind, create a pleasant place to live, sort out problems, save lives, improve mental health and wellbeing, and deal with fire alamrs.”.

During the meeting, Coun Cathy Martin said: “Changes made due to difficulties in recruiting wardens resulted in sheltered housing schemes not having a permanent or residential warden.

“The purpose of the changes was to modernise working practices, address the shortfall in service charges and release additional accommodation formerly used as staff accommodation.

“We accept there is a need to improve communication to tenants living in individual schemes and avoid last-minute changes to the hours sheltered housing officers expect to be at those schemes.

“This [cluster team model] will allow us to increase the resilience, give us better business continuity and hopefully address concerns raised through the consultation.”

Coun Martyn then asked if any other councillors wished to comment on the report - and was met with silence.

An elderly gentleman loudly spoke up: “The council may not think this is worth debating but I do. My health is being put at risk by this stupid idea.

“What do I do when there’s a fire? Last time an alarm went off, the fire brigade did not know I was disabled. Do you really think cutting the hours of wardens is a good thing? You are disgusting.”

The protestors applauded him as he left the room then followed him out after the motion passed and could be heard saying “What a shower!” and “What goes around comes around”.

The report the council approved read: “ The service had been operating with a high proportion of temporary and agency staff, which in turn was unsettling for residents.

“This new model will ensure that all schemes have dedicated staff, building in business continuity to ensure there is always enough capacity to maintain delivery of support to residents.

“There were often comments related to loneliness and isolation, feeling unsupported, security concerns and a lack of availability of the sheltered housing officers (SHOs).

“Residents told the council that they are struggling to report their repairs, some are not ready for on line reporting and repairs reporting is a valued service that they wish their SHO either to report for them or help them to manage.”

The report notes that the three extra roles “will ensure more robust cover for leave, or absence due to eg: training.

“It will ensure that there is extra capacity across the teams of SHOs to provide more intensive support to tenants within their own clusters, provide more assistance with reporting of repairs, and more time spent within their schemes will help address the feelings of loneliness.”