Manorfields: homes for local people in need

Manorfields your questions

Following the announcement of Bromley Council’s suggestion that the disused Manorfields care home should be modified to provide a roof over the heads of local families who might otherwise find themselves with nowhere to live, a number of questions have been asked by local residents prior to any planning application being made. Here we answer the most frequently asked questions.

What is our policy on care?

Since 2002, successive administrations of Bromley Council have had a policy of moving to the provision of care in the home. This has also been a repeated strand in ‘Building a Better Bromley’. As a consequence, the demand for residential places for the Council to purchase has declined significantly and many more residents have not needed to move from their homes. 

Why was Manorfields closed in the first place?

Manorfields residential care home closed in 2010, one of six council owned care homes which closed between 2009 and 2012.  This was part of a programme to reduce reliance on residential care and to support people in their own homes for as long as possible. Residential care home placements had been reducing in the previous four years and continue to reduce.

Was Manorfields viable as a care home?

Bromley Council worked with an independent care home provider to explore the potential to re-provide some care home places, including at Manorfields. However, it was agreed that the home would not be viable for the council or for the provider and an alternative procurement strategy for care home places was enacted which saw more than 100 new specialist places in extra care housing provided, bringing the total in the borough to 301.

If there is no need for nursing home places, why was a new home at Gray's Farm approved in late 2014?

Bromley Council has a policy not to support new care homes in the borough as we believe we have sufficient places for our residents. However, we have no say over private providers who may wish to build in the borough. This is a commercial decision for them to make. Such a home may attract residents from all over south-east London and north Kent. In doing so, there is always a risk that these residents will eventually need support from Bromley Council, hence our policy. 

Do we continue to need new places? I have heard so much about bed blocking by social care clients.

We do not need further and empty places which would be a cost to the council. We have a substantial number of spaces in most of our extra care housing schemes and local  providers report available residential and nursing home places too, even allowing for seasonal fluctuations in the winter and for respite care needs.

The only two delayed hospital discharges we have experienced were due to families challenging the financial determination of the local authority. Locally we must follow government policy which states that care is means tested, with the result that many residents will have to meet some or all of the cost of their own care.

I believe that the council is currently failing greatly in its duty to protect the public purse by paying an average of £39 per night for NPA.

Supply and demand of places dictates that we have to pay the market rate and currently this is well in excess of Housing Benefit.  This is why we are carrying out this exercise to provide our own temporary places to avoid paying higher rates. By increasing the supply we may be able to affect market rates but, at the very least, we will provide 40 plus units at a cost below our current market rate, providing a saving for the council. 

Will LBB residents bear the risk of any overspend in the refurbishment costs? 

These will be tightly controlled, contracts will be put in place to avoid cost drift wherever possible. Technically there is a loss of income from the interest lost by us not selling the property, notionally set at £58,000. This was outlined in the report that went to Executive.

The rate of rent chargeable by LBB is capped at 80 per cent of current market rate. The result being that LBB could receive lower Housing Benefit income for a property it owns than that of a third party landlord. LBB would incur cost due to operational management and Orchard & Shipman would still need to make a profit as would any other 'landlord'.

The 80 per cent is for permanent social housing and so does not apply. Orchard & Shipman are charging us a management fee to run the property for us. This is in the costings in the report to the Executive. 

Not all homeless people  to whom LBB has a duty to house would necessarily be entitled to an Housing Benefit award, would this also have further effect on the level of Housing Benefit available?

Most would qualify: for those who do not, the rent will be topped up through their own personal contributions.

No margin seems to have been built into the figures to allow for a reduction in Housing Benefit, under occupancy of units, loss of income to other finances within LBB and the exposure to loss risk faced by LBB residents.

They will be charged a rent so any Housing Benefit that they do not qualify for will be made up by the tenants’ own contributions. The under occupancy is not an issue as we have people that we can put into this accommodation straight away. Other income stream losses are highlighted in the body of the original Executive report.

The rates paid by LBB are excessive and above the market rates.

LBB purchase temporary accommodation in a number of ways. We have long term contracts with landlords at below individual market rates as they get a certainty of tenancy; we use a third party as part of a wider block to ensure the lowest possible rates; we negotiate sub-regional contracts to give greater buying power. These processes have been subject to market forces and so suggestions we could source more cheaply can not be evidenced by the rigorous processes undertaken by the council. Taken together, these are still not sufficient to either provide enough beds at below the government rate, or to ensure we do not have to spot purchase.

It would be better to sell the site and use that money to support homelessness.

Once we sell the site we have lost the capital receipt forever and so this is not a long or even a medium term solution. Using Manorfields for temporary accommodation allows us greater flexibility with regard to future options.

The nature of the residents in temporary accommodation is such that you need 24 hour security. This is a worry in itself.

Manorfields will be occupied primarily by families, many with young children. As landlord we have a duty of care and the security and protection of these residents and their children is just as important as any other inferred responsibility.

The leaflet circulated in late January 2015 was biased towards the council and hid many of the true features of the scheme.

The leaflet was part of the pre-application process and is to inform the applicant  (ie the Executive Director of Education, Care and Health) of what needs addressing in any future application. When the planning application is submitted, residents will have a further opportunity to respond formally. Responses will be collated by planning officers and made available to the respective planning committee hearing the application.

Why has no time line been published?

A timeline can only be agreed once the planning application has been made. At present, we hope to submit the application in the early Spring with a view to securing a planning slot in late March, early April 2015.

We hear much about Belle Grove but Manorfields is not Bellegrove: the areas are very different.

The financial model is the same and the Bellegrove model is showing savings as predicted. The area immediately around Manorfields is less well served by amenities but they are considered adequate, with Orpington town centre under a mile away.

I am trying to understand the demands being made on and the scale of the problem to LBB regarding homelessness. Could you tell me for 2014 the number of homelessness approaches made to LBB from Orpington Ward and the number of homelessness placements accepted from these approaches?

It is difficult to give an exact figure as households may present as immediately homeless or already be staying in some form of temporary accommodation when they present to us. This can make it difficult be completely accurate about where some households became homeless in the first place. However, we have interrogated the data we have for all current cases as a snapshot position. There are currently 295 homeless households who have listed their main address prior to homelessness as being within Orpington. There are currently 163 households who are placed in temporary accommodation in Orpington.