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Information about the proposed changes

The Charity offers sheltered accommodation to poor persons aged over 60 and are able to live independently who are resident in the London Borough of Lewisham ("Lewisham").  It does not provide any care facilities to residents and there is no resident warden. The current almshouse comprises 11 self-contained flats in a building constructed in 1962.

The Charity is governed by a Charity Commission Scheme dated 25 November 1958, as amended by Schemes dated 14 January 1974 and 11 October 1983.

(A)  Background to the changes proposed

1. It has become increasingly apparent to the trustees that the almshouse is too small to meet the current demand for safe, comfortable and affordable accommodation for the rising numbers of elderly people Lewisham.  Furthermore, the current flats were converted from bed-sits in the 1980 and are uneven in size and quality.  Finally, the trustees have found that beneficiaries are less inclined to move into sheltered accommodation until they are over the age of 70 and, as a result, the age at which new tenants move in has slowly increased.  One of the consequences of the shift in the age profile of tenants is that more of the tenants require accommodation which is adapted for those with a disability.

2. The trustees consider that the current provision could be expanded by increasing the number of flats on the site.  The quality of the provision could also be improved if new flats reflected modern ergonomic standards of amenity and provided additional facilities to support disabled living.  The Trustees have therefore decided that it is in the best interest of the Charity's beneficiaries to replace the existing almshouse building with purpose built provision to facilitate independent disabled living, including wheelchair access to a significant number of the units.  There are no plans to provide any care facilities to tenants.

3. The trustees are applying for planning consent to demolish the existing almshouse and build a new almshouse on the same site.  If the plans are approved, the existing 11 self-contained flats will be replaced by up to 25 self-contained flats.  The ground floor flats will be fully wheelchair accessible and all the flats suitably adapted to assist tenants to continue to live independently in the almshouse for longer.

4. This redevelopment may take 5+years to deliver, and in the meantime a significant proportion of the almshouse will remain empty. The Trustees have therefore approached the Charity Commission to discuss proposed amendments to the Charity Commission Scheme as set out below.

(B) Changes proposed

The Charity is considering amending its beneficiary class as follows:

1. to enable the trustees to fill vacancies with those aged under 60, on a temporary basis, if the trustees have not received sufficient eligible applications from those aged 60 and over;

2. to remove the requirement that at least six of the almspeople should be single persons; and

3. to include those in "financial hardship" as well as those in poverty.

The trustees of the Charity are undertaking a consultation on the proposed changes and, in particular, are seeking the views of the Charity's key stakeholders.

The reasons as to why these changes are proposed are explained in more detail, below.

(C)  Reasons for the proposed changes

(1) Enable the trustees to appoint those aged under 60, on a temporary basis, if insufficient eligible applications are received from those aged over 60

1. In light of the intention to re-develop the almshouse, the trustees are explaining to potential new tenants that building work is planned to start in the next 2 - 4 years and all new licences are being granted on a temporary basis.  However, as older people are generally unwilling to move into accommodation on a short-term basis, the trustees are finding it increasingly difficult to fill the almshouse vacancies.  At present there are 6 vacancies, some of which have been advertised for four years and are as yet unfilled.

2. The trustees have always sought to keep the Weekly Maintenance Contribution (WMC) paid by the almshouse tenants as low as possible and the present WMCs are in the region of 57% of the current market rental rates for similar properties in the area.  However, if the number of voids increases, the trustees are faced with having to consider raising the rents in order to cover the running costs of the almshouse.

3. Conscious of the reluctance of those within the Charity's current beneficial class to move into temporary accommodation, the trustees have decided that it is in the best interests of the Charity to seek consent from the Commission to permit the Trustees to appoint, such persons who would (but for being aged under 60) be eligible to be appointed to the almshouse on a temporary basis, should there be no suitable applicants aged 60 and above once a vacancy has been advertised in the usual way.  The trustees hope that this will enable them to avoid a situation where the almshouse has a number of voids at a time of rising homelessness, and the Trustees are forced to raise WMCs to cover the almshouse’s running costs as a result of these voids.  It is also noted that empty flats also create as security issue for the site, which is of particular concern due to the age and vulnerability of many of the almshouse’s tenants.

4. The intention of the trustees would be to fill any such voids with persons as close to the age of 60 as possible, and it is not the intention for the almshouse to be used to house students or younger people.

(2) Removal of the requirement that “At least six of the almspeople shall be single persons”

Although the almshouse flats each have only one bedroom, the flats have sufficient space for two people to occupy each flat.  It is intended that the new flats will also be built with sufficient space for occupation by a couple.  In the trustees’ experience, many almspeople are appointed as a couple but, as time passes and one of the couple dies, that flat becomes occupied by a single person.  Whilst this means that there are usually at least six single people living in the almshouse, the trustees are concerned that, if all eligible applicants for a vacancy are couples, there will be situations when none of them can be appointed as tenants because there are, at the time, only five single tenants appointed.  Therefore, the trustees consider it appropriate to remove the requirement that at least six of the almspeople are “single persons”.

(3) Widening the requirement that a tenant be "poor" to include “persons in financial hardship;"

The trustees have, in the last couple of years, received a number of applications from people who are in financial hardship, in that they have very low income and struggle to pay their utility bills and other outgoings, yet they cannot be considered to be “poor” as they own their own (modest) flat.  In the trustees’ experience, such applicants are often living in areas of high crime and deprivation and are, as a result, suffering from social isolation as well as financial hardship.  The trustees consider that such people ought to be included within the beneficial class for appointment as almspeople, as they could sell their flat and use the proceeds to pay the almshouse WMCs and also to supplement their other meagre income to meet other outgoings.  In addition to assisting with the relief of the applicant’s financial hardship, the move to the almshouse would also provide the applicant with a safe and secure environment in which to live and the opportunity for social interaction with other people of a similar age, alleviating their social isolation.  Therefore, the trustees consider that it appropriate to widen the qualifications for almspeople so that it includes those suffering from “financial hardship”, as well as those who are “poor”.

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Please send your response by Friday 2nd March 2018 either by letter or email to:

The Finance & Administration Manager

Clerk’s Office, Lloyd Court, Slagrove Place.

London SE13 7LP

[email address – admin@lpcharities.co.uk]