ANGER over cutbacks on sheltered housing wardens by the council has seen a fresh campaign launched.

Residents at Charles Macpherson Gardens have joined forces with the ACORN union in a bid to retain a full-time warden at the Eldene facility.

Francis Smith, who lives there, told the Adver in February how he owes his life to a housing warden after she checked in on him and found him dehydrated and hallucinating – even though the 68-year-old told her he was fine when she called.

But moves by Swindon Borough Council to adopt what it says is a model used up and down the country will leave residents without a live-in warden.

“Having a full-time warden who can build real links with residents is important in so many ways people might not realise," Francis said.

“Full-time wardens in Swindon turn our sheltered housing in to happy communities, know us well as residents and can advocate for us.”

Historically, each of Swindon’s 32 council-run sheltered housing schemes has had a dedicated on-site warden working between 8am-4pm. In future, two wardens are split between several sites, some of which are miles away from each other.

Francis added: “There’s the obvious reasons we need an onsite warden – having someone on hand when you’re gasping for breath is vital – but there’s also the little, day-to-day things that a full time warden does that make Charles Mac a happy, safe community.” 

Maggie Hathaway-Mills is a resident of George Hall Court, another council sheltered housing scheme. 

She said: “At George Hall court, we already have a warden split between three sites, and it isn’t working at all. There are frequently incidents and emergencies that require immediate assistance and our warden is miles away at another site. 

“If a fire alarm is triggered, the doors are automatically unlocked and only a warden can re-lock them, meaning there have been times where all our doors have been unlocked for long periods of time, leaving residents feeling unsafe. 

“Sheltered housing schemes that still have full-time wardens need to fight to keep them and we who have lost them should be fighting to get them back.”

Charles Macpherson resident Chris said the presence of a full-time warden was what attracted them and many other residents to move to the scheme in the first place.
ACORN was contacted when the council's plan was rejected by residents during a consultation. 

The union has written to the council on behalf of residents demanding that the move is reversed.

A survey showed 84 per cent of residents said they were worried by the reduction in warden hours. Only 10 per cent felt that their views were taken seriously in consultation and 96 per cent believe there should be a dedicated warden for each housing scheme. 

Jon Timbrell from ACORN said: “Sheltered housing residents are understandably worried about this unwarranted and unwanted change but determined to win. And we are equally determined to help them do it.”

Union secretary Kate Linnegar added: “Similar reductions in warden hours in sheltered housing across the country have ended in disaster and failure elsewhere. Our elderly residents need better. 

“We are hoping the council respond positively to our letter, but we are getting organised and as a community union, we will support residents to fight for and win the provision they deserve.” 

“We are building a network of members and supporters in sheltered housing across Swindon. We can win, but our only strength is in numbers, so if you are a sheltered housing tenant or a resident’s friend or family member, get in touch.” 

A Swindon Borough Council spokesperson said: “The key components of the service remain, such as daily weekday calls, emergency cover when staff are not on site, health safety checks, etc.

“Prior to the implementation of the review officers visited every sheltered housing scheme, collating feedback and have updated our tenants consultative group TASH about the progress of the review.”

“It has been agreed that TASH and Tenants Security Panel will receive regular feedback and we have set up a process whereby we can be notified of specific concerns or enquires relating to the review.”

“We have never had a service whereby residential staff were on duty 24/7. 

“Although there is a perception that this was the case but we are committed to supporting our most vulnerable residents and will continue to provide a weekday call to them if requested.”

“We would never put residents in a less safe position and all our residents have access to our Homeline service 24hrs a day, seven days a week, when Sheltered Staff are not working in the building.The Homeline service has been in operation for many years and has supported residents when sheltered housing officers are not on duty.

“This was the case prior to these changes – for example at weekends, when staff are on leave, training, etc.”

ACORN is asking anyone who wants to get involved with the campaign – especially sheltered housing residents and their friends and loved ones  – to get in touch at or 07440 964701.