Two innovative projects which help East Suffolk residents in housing need have been shortlisted for prestigious national awards.
Led by East Suffolk Council’s Housing Service, both the East Suffolk Stepping Home project and a project to bring empty homes back into use have been shortlisted for this year’s Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) Service Awards, which celebrate the best in local government frontline services.
Shortlisted for the Best Health and Wellbeing Initiative, the Stepping Home project is delivered by the Council’s Warm Homes Healthy People team and addresses housing issues which may delay a patient’s discharge from hospital, or which increase the risk of an avoidable hospital admission.
Additionally, the Council’s work to bring empty and neglected homes back into use has been shortlisted for the Best Housing, Regeneration or New Build Initiative. The Council’s Private Sector Housing Team actively monitors and reviews empty properties in the district and encourages owners to bring them back into use wherever possible. As part of this work, the team identified two problematic empty properties in Lowestoft, one of which had been neglected for more than 20 years. The Council then bought and transformed these derelict buildings into much-needed homes.
Cllr Richard Kerry, East Suffolk’s cabinet member for Housing said: “Over 260 nominations were received from organisations across the country and so it is a great achievement to be shortlisted twice. Our Housing Team works tirelessly to help people in housing need and I am delighted to see these two innovative housing schemes chosen as finalists for these competitive national awards.”
The APSE Service Awards ceremony takes place online on 16 December.
About Stepping Home
Funded by the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, Stepping Home employs a dedicated Housing Patient Coordinator to oversee the service and leases temporary accommodation for patients to live in whilst their own homes are made safe.
Stepping Home is a health-focused project that brings together the existing resources, partnerships and networks in Suffolk with the aim of reducing avoidable hospital admissions and delayed discharge. The service improves patient flow and provides a better patient experience, alleviating pressure on health workers freeing them up to deliver their key roles.
Over 15 months, the project received 400 referrals, saved over 540 hospital bed days by enabling earlier discharge, and delivered 247 small home adaptations from key safes to grabrails.
About Transforming Empty Homes
Empty homes often become a target for vandalism, arson, squatters, fly-tipping and other criminal behaviour. Not only can long-term empty houses cause problems for neighbouring properties and attract anti-social behaviour, the national shortage of housing means these properties are sorely needed by local people.
After lengthy informal attempts to acquire two long-term empty properties in Lowestoft, it was decided to use Compulsory Purchase Orders with the aim of renovating them and bringing them back into use as high-quality social housing. But in both cases the acquisitions were able to go ahead without the need for Orders.
Having purchased the properties, one of which had been empty for over 20 years, the extensive refurbishments were carried out in-house by the Council’s Housing Maintenance team.
Once complete, one property – a former takeaway – became the Council’s first House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) which increased the supply of housing to single residents under the age of 35 years old. A change to Housing Benefit made by the Government in 2018 had negatively impacted on single people under 35 years old and the Council had struggled to ensure sufficient housing stock for young single people as a result. The HMO is owned by the Council and managed through a partnership with local housing provider, Solo Housing who provide tenants with specialist support services.
The second project, a mid-terrace house which had been unoccupied since 1995 and as a result has fallen into disrepair, was refurbished and is now occupied by a family in housing need.