Gavin, Renata and I were delighted to be invited to Lew Evans House (on Underhill Road) which is a block of sheltered accomodation flats.
We enjoyed tea and biscuits with the residents and shared our views on why Gordon Brown would do more than David Cameron for older voters.
However, our visit revealed some of the real human consequences of cuts made by Southwark's Lib Dem-Tory council.
Many of the residents have lived at Lew Evans House for 10 or 15 years and speak very warmly of their memories of when they first moved in. However, recent years have seen their full-time on-site wardens cut and other support cut back. Their wardens are much-loved and still provide an excellent service when they are around. However their hours have been cut back extensively and they must now work at several local homes rather than being based at Lew Evans full-time. This is something both the residents and wardens are unhappy about.
As a result of these cuts, the more vulnerable residents tend to only visit the communal areas every now and again rather than a couple of times a day. Meanwhile those residents that are more independent are left with less company and often find themselves having to watch out for the residents that really need more support.
Sadly, the residents we met say that, after attending many meetings and making their upset clear, they feel they are too old to keep up their fight. This is awful. Not only have these older residents 'paid-in' all their life in the hope they would get some help in old age, there has been no cut in rent as the quality of their sheltered housing has fallen.
The silly thing is that Southwark's cuts are a false economy. Good sheltered accomodation can actually help local authorities, health providers and social care services cut costs, whilst also ensuring a safe and happy environment for those who remain in good health but who need a little bit of support every now and again.
Research suggests that enabling vulnerable people to live independently with housing-related support services, at a cost of £198 million in sheltered housing across the UK, provides a net financial benefit of £647 million through reduced need for residential or nursing care, hospital admissions and home care.
Southwark Lib Dems have made some vicious cuts to social care with nearly 1000 residents who previously benefited from social care having that service removed. To scrap on-site wardens at sheltered accomodation alongside this is disgraceful and will inevitably add to demand on other public services in the long run.