Community Meeting – Garden Walk Supported Housing

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017. 11:15pm

A “community meeting” was held on the 23rd of August 2017 to discuss the impact of the behaviour of some those living in supported housing at 38-44 Garden Walk in Cambridge on other residents in the area. A couple of residents asked me to attend as problems had been raised, but not addressed, over a number of months, and they thought I might be able to help.

The supported housing block in question is made up of twenty-five independent bedsits used by Cambridgeshire County Council and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust to accommodate people with mental health problems. There are staff on site providing support.

Problems reported by neighbours at the meeting include incessant shouting and swearing for hours; fear of violence, noise, incidents leading to broken glass on the street, one of the residents of the accommodation threatening to kill a cat, and there were concerns mentioned about offensive artwork displayed in rooms being visible from the street. The police said some vulnerable residents in the accommodation were being exploited by criminals; some criminals were persuading the residents to lend them money. There are also reports of unspecified problems relating to drug use.

Neighbours of the accommodation were concerned that people who needed a higher level of care were being accommodated in Garden Walk. The staff present said that people with more complex needs were being accommodated in the block and there had been no associated increase in staffing. In response to a question I asked the County Council’s representative said that decisions on who is referred to the accommodation are taken by a Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust panel. The inappropriate selection of people for referral to the accommodation appears to be the key underlying problem. I suggested that this concern be raised using the public speaking slot at a Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust governing body meeting and this suggestion appeared to gain broad support from those at the meeting.

Residents reported a dismissive attitude from the duty staff at the accommodation (for the community meeting the company running the service, “Metropolitan“, brought up a couple of staff from their London offices and even the local staff present were apparently not those typically encountered by residents getting in touch). A key problem identified was Metropolitan staff’s insistence that residents call the police when there are problems, rather than the staff taking responsibility to decide on an appropriate response. Clearly the staff are better placed than members of the public to determine who best to call for help, be it the police, or clinical mental health staff. Neighbours are understandably reluctant to call the police when the response required is a medical one. The staff at the meeting admitted the policy and defended it on the grounds the police would need to take statements from those making reports.

Concern was raised about the density of supported housing of various types on Garden Walk, and on the adjacent Victoria Road; the suggestion was there is too much in one small part of the city. That I think is something which could be usefully raised at local North Area Committee in-front of local city and county councillors. Councillors at the North Area Committee also set the local policing priorities so that would be an effective place to make suggestions for better communication protocols between the police and those running the accommodation, and to ensure the police keep those living in the accommodation safe from criminal exploitation.

Accommodation managers told the meeting that residents have tenancies and the strong rights which social housing tenants enjoy; the staff noted that this means they can’t move people between rooms, or easily evict them without the involvement of the courts. No-one was keen to see people getting evicted; people want those living in the accommodation to get the best care, and the concern is some people are not in the best place for them, or those who have to live around them. Those who are disrupting the lives of people living in houses on the street are almost certainly causing more upset and disruption to the vulnerable and ill people living within the accommodation block itsself. I questioned why licences to occupy rooms couldn’t be used instead, some Metropolitan staff thought that would worth considering, others said judges wouldn’t accept that given the independent bedsit nature of the accommodation a licence could be used. It was made clear during the meeting that it is judges, not clinicians, who are playing a key role in determining if people stay in the supported accommodation or get moved elsewhere.

The meeting was told the current operators “Metropolitan” had lost the contract from Cambridgeshire County Council to provide the accommodation; and a new contract is about to be awarded to “Sanctuary”, but “Metropolitan” will remain the landlord and residents will have tenancy agreements with “Metropolitan”. The County Council representative said the contract with Sanctuary was agreed, but not signed, and didn’t know what provisions it contained relating to disruptive behaviour by tenants; the officer appeared keen to get the existing and proposed contracts published so everyone can see what the council are expecting of its contractors.

It’s notable that while this is a form of state provided “housing”; Cambridge City Council which generally has responsibility for social housing isn’t involved, the arrangements involve only the mental health trust, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridgeshire County Council and the service providers; it’s on the more medical care side of the spectrum.

Only one local councillor, Mike Sergeant (Labour, Cambridge City Council), turned up to the meeting. Garden Walk is now in the County Council ward of Castle so the key missing councillor was Labour’s Clare Richards (who doesn’t live in the ward, but lives in Abbey). The area’s Liberal Democrat councillors Ysanne Austin and Damien Tunnacliffe were not present.

Some neighbours of the supported housing said their enjoyment of their homes and their mental health was being affected, some said reporting and logging issues relating to the supported housing had become like a job. I sympathise with this, the state is trying to push responsibility down to those who are suffering adverse impacts rather than supporting them.

No-one present at the meeting introduced themselves as a resident of the supported housing; and its not clear if those living in the accommodation were specifically invited.

The police sergeant present noted that making a call to the police via the 101 telephone system is very challenging.

Tweets from, and relating to, the meeting:

The initial element of video accompanying this article was made before I attended the meeting and learnt more about the accommodation and the problems being experienced.

17 comments/updates on “Community Meeting – Garden Walk Supported Housing

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    The tender notice for the new contract is at:

    The page states the chosen supplier to provide the service from 21 September 2017 is: “Sanctuary Housing Association trading as Sanctuary Supported Liv”

    There are no details of the requirements where they would be expected:

    there are also no attachments on contract’s page on the contracts register:

    There the contractor is given as “Sanctuary Housing Association trading as Sanctuary Supported Living”, so presumably there was a truncation due to a limited field size on the central government site.

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    I found the following on the allocation of accommodation:

    How is the Supported Accommodation Assessed ?
    A meeting, known as the Accommodation Forum, takes place on a monthly basis at Fulbourn Hospital. The meeting is chaired by a senior social care manager. Supported accommodation providers and representatives of the District Councils Housing Department, the later may be able to offer accommodation. The Mental Health Homelessness Prevention (MHHP) officer also attends. This is an important position. This post is employed by the Street Outreach Service under a contract to the County Council. The MHHP officer’s role is to assess all people coming into the psychiatric wards for their accommodation needs. This ensures that they do not lose their existing accommodation or, where this has to change, contact can be made with the District Councils for alternative provision or a referral to the accommodation panel if supported accommodation is required.

    Source: Cambridge Rethink Carers Group April/May 2014 newsletter.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    I have made a Freedom of Information request in public for the current and proposed arrangements:

    I hope the request will prompt the release of:

    • Information on how individuals are selected for support via this service.
    • Information relating to dealing with disruptive behaviour by those using the service.
    • Information relating to protecting those using the service.
    • Information relating to the type of tenure / licence under which users are provided with accommodation.
    • Information on support staffing levels within accommodation.
    • The list of property addresses at which accommodation [is/has been/will be] provided under the arrangements.
  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    I have been given some more examples of the problems being experienced, and observed, by neighbours of the supported housing block:

    • Crockery smashed against a neighbour’s front door
    • Threats, including rape threats to passers-by
    • Exposure
  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust Council of Governors meets on the 13th of September 2017: 5:30pm – 8pm, Hinchingbrooke Country Park, Brampton Rd, Huntingdon PE29 6DB; when available the papers ought be published at:

    Previous agendas have contained an item for questions from members of the public; I propose using this opportunity to say:

    On the 23rd of August 2017 a community meeting was held to discuss the impact of the behaviour of residents of the supported accommodation at 38-44 Garden Walk. I understand CPFT allocates individuals to that accommodation. Residents have reported disruptive behaviour including incessant shouting, threats, and items being thrown at their homes. The police told the meeting vulnerable residents placed in the accommodation were being exploited by criminals.

    Neighbours were concerned people with a higher level of need were being accommodated in the block than had been the case in the past; staff from the accommodation confirmed that was the case and stated there had been no increase in staffing associated with the accommodation of people with more complex needs.

    The concern is some people are not in the best place for them, or those who have to live around them. Those who are disrupting the lives of people living in houses on the street are almost certainly causing more upset and disruption to the vulnerable and ill people living within the accommodation block itsself.

    In light of the experience at Garden Walk would the Governing Body consider reviewing the provision of supported accommodation, and specifically considering:

    • the policies for dealing with disruptive behaviour.
    • the appropriateness of the tenure used.
    • if people are being offered places in appropriate accommodation.
    • if there are sufficient staff, with the required skills, to provide support.

    with a view to making recommendations for improvements in the interests of those requiring the supported accommodation, those living near the accommodation and wider society.

    I have written about the community meeting, and subsequent actions, at:

    I’ve reviewed how public questions have been handled. There have been public questions before which means someone asking one should not come as a shock to the governors; public questions have recently been invited at the start and end of the meeting.

    Review of minutes of Previous Public Question Slots at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust Council of Governors Meetings

    • 7 December 2011 – Two members of the public present; no questions minuted.
    • 9 February 2012 – Minutes state: “There were no members of the public present.”
    • 21 March 2012 – No public question item; minutes record public had been heard an an inquorate (unminuted) meeting on 14 March 2012; the 21 March meeting was a re-run of the 21 March meeting to consider the items requiring a decision.
    • 4 July 2012 – One member of the public made a statement – on funding a budget cuts.
    • 19 September 2012no public speaking item on the agenda but three members of the public were allowed to speak, details were not minuted, the full quote from the minutes for the item state:
      “Questions were raised by three members of the public. These were referred to the Medical Director and Director of Nursing who would take note of the concerns raised and produce action logs on the individual questions.

    • 18 September 2013 – No public questions item on agenda and no minuted public questions item either.
    • 13 June 2013 – No public questions item on agenda and no minuted public questions item
    • 13 March 2013 – No public speaking item on agenda; no minuted public questions.
    • 5 December 2012 – No minuted public questions.
    • 11 December 2013 – One member of the public asked two questions; one on lack of feedback from a service user group and another asking how “payment by results” worked.
    • 12 March 2014 – “The Chairman asked attendees whether there were any questions in relation to items on the agenda, of which there were none”, it appears this was intended to refer to public questions; later the minutes record questions from the public were taken on a specific agenda item.
    • 14 May 2014 – Two questions from members of the public minuted along with responses. Both taken at the end of the meeting, though the agenda stated: “Questions from the public in relation to agenda items will be taken at the beginning and end of the meeting”.
    • 17 September 2014 – apparently a cosy meeting as the minutes record: “The Chairman introduced the members of the public who were present”. A public question and its response on “payments by results” was minuted.
    • 11 March 2015 – The minutes record: “Questions from members of the public -There were no questions asked.”
    • 13 May 2015 – The minutes record: “Questions from members of the public -There were no questions asked.”
    • 8 September 2015 – The minutes record: “Questions from members of the public – There were no questions from members of the public.”
    • 9 December 2015 – The minutes record: “Questions from members of the public – There were no questions from members of the public.”
    • 11 May 2016 – At the start of the meeting a Mr Lawrence was asked if he could use the trust’s library, his request was denied. For the public questions slot towards the end of the meeting the minutes record: “Questions from members of the public – There were no questions raised by members of the public.”
    • 7 September 2016 – Meeting began inquorate. A public question was asked about the involvement of service and carers users in [developing] strategy.
    • 14 December 2016 – The minutes record: “Questions from members of the public There were no members of public in attendance.”
    • 12 April 2017 – The minutes record: “Questions from members of the public There were no questions from the member of public in attendance.

    There doesn’t appear to be any mechanism for submitting public questions in advance of a meeting; such a mechanism might enable more considered responses.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      Only pen and paper, or other non-electronic devices, may be used to report on Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust Governors meetings without the express permission of the chair. I have sought permission to use electronic devices to record the meeting.

      I have not yet decided what to do if permission is denied. I will certainly publicise the decision and any reasons (I don’t think such a public decision can have the confidential character). I may ask the chair, governors and other elected representatives if they would be prepared to put the question on my behalf and report the response.

      I could also read the question into camera on the road outside the meeting – showing my willingness to be present at the meeting, and explain why I am not inside.

      There are risks arising due to defamation law; and also risks arising from not being able to record encounters with public officials, if use of electronic recording devices is not permitted.

      The trust’s constitution needs to be brought into the modern era.

    2. Richard Taylor Article author

      On the 8th of September 2017 I received the following response to my request for permission to use electronic devices to report on the meeting :

      The Trust Chair would like to give her express permission for you to record the answers to the questions that you personally ask using an electronic device. However she does not give permission for you to record any other parts of the meeting in this way. This is because it is a meeting in public and the Trust must ensure that if any confidential information is shared by a Trust member or member of the public, that this is not broadcast to a wider public domain.

      I made no reference in my request to any wish to record the answers to questions I ask; and nor did I specifically ask permission for myself.

      The reason given for not permitting the use of electronic devices to report on other elements of the meeting is totally unreasonable and irrational. The restrictions apply to meeting in public which anyone could attend and observe. If any confidential information was shared by a Trust member or member of the public then the confidentially would have been breached irrespective of how anyone might record that fact. If there was an accidental release of confidential, or personal, information during a meeting those attending would have to make their own judgements on what it was legal and moral to publish.

      I am considering a run-on question to my prime question about accommodation asking:

      Would the Governing body please reconsider its ban on reporting meetings using electrical devices? The ban is contained within section 21.4 of the Trust’s constitution. The restriction is bizarre and out-of line with the practice of other public sector bodies, many of which now actively encourage people to report on them using modern technology.

      The constitution permits the chair to waive the rule. I asked for permission, for me, and anyone else, to report on Council of Governors meetings using electronic devices but my request was largely denied; with the exception of permission being granted for me to use electronic devices to report on answers to public questions I ask myself.

      The reason given for the denial was attempting to restrict the wider-broadcast of any confidential information which is accidentally revealed to the public at a meeting is unreasonable and irrational. The reasoning was unreasonable as it is based on something which should never happen. The restrictions apply to meeting in public which anyone could attend and observe. If any confidential information was shared by a Trust member or member of the public then the confidentially would have been breached irrespective of how anyone might record that fact. If there was an accidental release of confidential, or personal, information during a meeting those attending would have to make their own judgements on what it was legal and moral to publish.

      The restrictions raise the hurdle for those wishing to actively participate by observing, commenting on and reporting on meetings. They raise the risks involved for those who want to report on the content of meetings. Rather than allowing people to use mobile phones, which the vast majority of people own now, to record material the trust currently insist on the use of mechanical equipment such as a cylinder phonograph recording to wax cylinders or mechanical cine-cameras; equipment which produces a much poorer quality recording than today’s modern technology and is not so widely accessible. I have purchased non-electrical equipment to support my participation in today’s meeting.

      Encouraging reporting would allow more people to observe, and comment on the activity of the Governing body. Those able to attend in person would be easily able to report back on what happened to campaign groups, their family, and their elected representatives, for example. Lobbying elected representatives is much better if that lobbying can be supported by hard evidence.

      At the meeting in response to other reports I added that allowing reporting using modern technology could help engage and “energise” members. I suggested governors let members see what they do.

  6. Richard Taylor Article author

    Cambridge City Council’s North Area Committee meets on the 14th of September 2017 at 18.30 at Chesterton Community College; there is an “open forum” section at that meeting. The papers, will become available at

    I suggest using that opportunity to bring the problems raised into the public domain, to a formal minuted local government meeting in-front of the area’s local councillors. Councillors could be urged to set a local policing priority protecting those living both in and around the supported accommodation; councillors can urge their representatives on the accommodation forum to consider what’s happening in Garden Walk and take it into account when offering accommodation, they should also be able to ensure what’s happing is discussed at relevant council committees and report back to the area committee.

    As councillors have previously discussed the police’s failure to open their emails; the fact they’ve been asking Garden Walk residents to email them on the problematic “cbcitynorth” address would also be worth mentioning.

  7. Richard Taylor Article author

    If this isn’t resolved by October, the next Cambridge Community Safety Partnership – a body which brings together the police, councils, and the mental health trust, is at:

    17 October 2017 from 10am in Committee Rooms 1 & 2 at The Guildhall, Cambridge, CB2 3QJ.

    There is a public speaking slot at that meeting too.

    The representative of CPFT on the Community Safety Partnership is on Twitter: Nick Oliver.

  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    My plan for attending the CPFT Council of Governors meeting on the 13th of September 2017:

    • I plan to arrive early and look at, and around, the venue.
    • I plan to enter the meeting at exactly the 17.30 start time of the meeting; to reduce the chance of any interactions/interventions prior to the start of the meeting
    • I plan to only speak when invited to do so. I may raise my hand to indicate a wish to address the meeting at appropriate moments
    • I intend to keep my camera in my bag to clearly show I’m not recording, and I will keep my phone in my pocket other than for briefly looking at the time.
    • If I’m asked to put my questions I will wait until the response before taking my camera out to record any response – in line with my permission. It may be difficult to get the camera up and working promptly. I will not be able to use my sound recording equipment effectively under these constraints.
    • I plan to use my non-electrical camera only after I have put my questions; I hope this will reduce the chance of me being thrown out before putting my questions.
    • I plan to walk away, and do my best to record any confrontation. If it appears appropriate I will explicitly ask anyone approaching me if they plan to use force, and to ask to be allowed to get away.
    • If the meeting is suspended I plan to start recording at that point; and will do a piece to camera as I’m leaving explaining what’s happened.
    • I plan to write down tweets and tweet them later; maybe with #delayed where I’d usually tag them #live
    • If when I arrive early I spot a pre-meeting in progress I may use electronic means to record and publicise that.
    • After the meeting I am considering making a FOI request for any official audio recording of the proceedings; I may present that along with my photos on Twitter and YouTube.
    • I plan to use a car park pass in the meeting papers as it appears to exempt users of the venue from a council pay and display charge; I consider my attendance as a member of the public to be a use of the centre.
    • If challenged over the use of my mechanical camera I plan to approach an officer and make clear it is a mechanical camera
    • If I’m asked to leave I may if necessary ask for reasons; I think it would be reasonable not to wait to be asked to speak to request such reasons.
    • I will ask if any conditions imposed on me are to be imposed on others present; eg. bag searches. I will demonstrate so far as practical I don’t have active electrical recording equipment when I am not permitted to have it on. My intent is to follow the silly rules as part of my activism seeking to get them changed.
    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      As it turned out my questions were the last items of the meeting; so there was no opportunity to deploy the non-electrical camera.

      I didn’t park in the car park as it was dark and wasn’t somewhere I was happy leaving my car.

  9. Richard Taylor Article author

    I put the question to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust Governors meeting on the 13th of September 2017.

    The key point was the new service provider, Sanctury, is working with the County Council to look at an alternative location for the service.

    I have transcribed the responses from my video:

    An officer (I think) responded first:


    Thank you for [inaudible] drawing out issues at Garden Walk.

    I’ve got a report back from the local authority commissioner who commissions the services there on a meeting which was held on the 11th which is two nights ago which Cllr Claire Richards who is one of the local councillors and members of the Sanctury team attended and which a whole range of things were discussed around what could be done to support the situation which I could read out to you or I could email to you, but what I wanted to say was there is a change we are in that limbo period between the change of provider because the local authority this is Cambridgeshire County Council has just been through a tendering exercise and Sanctuary is the new care provider who are taking over from the service holder Metropolitan and they actually start the new contract on the 21st of September.

    What I will do is ensure that our staff go and talk to Sanctury and go through the support plans of the individuals which we have placed within Garden Walk to have discussions around whether there are particular issues involving particular individuals and to work on strategies. So that is one, that is what we can do at CPFT because as you say we can do the support planning and placing of service users in different supported accommodation projects. What we don’t do is actually run the supported accommodation projects or actually commission it, that’s what Sanctury and the local authority do, but we all have to work together. We have to work together to make sure we get the mix of residents right for example, I should say tenants because I should assume most of them have tenancies because it is a supported accommodation project, it is not a residential care home, and that may be an issue. Some times the dynamics, I don’t know if this is the case, but sometimes the dynamics are finely balanced, and if you can take, award a tenancy to somebody who upsets the equanimity of the project, there could have been something like that going on, I don’t know, but we will work with the new provider which makes much more sense to me that to work with the outgoing provider to see that we have done everything which can be done. There is this whole list of other things that the councillor and the council are dealing with at the moment.

    [I noted I had asked my question in public so suggested the answer be provided in public]

    So a range of options to support the situation in Garden Walk include;

    • Implementing a waking night user service; so at the moment they have a sleep-in service so waking-night means they actually have someone who is awake to deal with issues that may arise.
    • Reviewing the options for alternative accommodation for the service as there is saturation in Garden Walk, so Sanctury have some options for this which are being explored with the council.
    • Regular attendance at residents’ association meetings which hasn’t happened previously as far as the author of this is aware.
    • Providing the residents with clear protocols around reporting incidents and feedback.
    • Regular open forums for residents to pop in to discuss ongoing issues
    • Interaction with the local community – coffee mornings, street parties, etc.
    • Providing a named contact who will be responsible for liaising with the residents.

    [I note my question suggested a review of the provision of supported accommodation to see if there is a systemic problem]

    I wasn’t suggesting there necessarily was a problem with individual residents but we would review individuals anyway because under statute we are obliged to do that.

    A governor added:

    I think it is very important for us as governors to as we’ve brought up in previous council of governors meetings and in other forums as well that the wider health and well-being [inaudible] mental health problems and we have referred to Iola[sp?] was talking to I think [that we cover the?] inclusion board and other places that housing in general is discussed so I would just reiterate that it is an important issue for, speaking as having a family member with severe mental health problems accommodation is extremely important to be honest but of course it is and I’m not saying I don’t mean peripheral in the sense of unimportant but it isn’t the core business as Debra has outlined of course it is with the local authority so I do think it is an issue governors over the next year should be thinking about in the context of how people with severe mental health problems continue their recovery out in the community and housing is an important part of it. I think we would, it’s not an issue we ignore but we need to think about where to put it in an future meeting. I’d welcome because there isn’t a huge understanding as well because you know you are often a bit at sea as to where can people go and I think it would be another example of a governor taking a lead and getting to grips with that particular issue.

    Officer now identified “Debra” responded:

    We do have an accountability to report on numbers of people on CPA – Care Programme Approach – who have accommodation, and we’ve got that on the board assurance framework so we do have the [inaudible] because as you so rightly say accommodation is so important to people [inaudible] in their recovery.

    Governor Paul McGhee added:

    Richard, I’m a new Governor here and this actually my first proper governors meeting and all I’ve been to so far is an induction and one of the things I’ve learnt there is there is a proper separation between what governors do and what the executive does and I think, I feel, although I’m new to this it feels to me is like this is something better resolved by the executive of CPFT than the board of governors, if some major policy needs to be reviewed it would be discussed by the executive and then brought up to the board of Governors and we would talk about it then, but I don’t think it is right for the board of Governors to get involved as something as operational as this.

    [I think that's right, but I think the Governors can also, prompt the board to look at something and they might reasonably do that after hearing from a member of the public]

    The Chair, Julie Spence, then commented:

    That’s what I was going to say. Our function really is that the executive are aware, they will the council and the new service providers to ensure they work with residents so that everyone can live in harmony and that’s what Debra has started to do with her colleagues and that’s why she got the feedback for today and I know that as a result of meetings which have gone on things are starting to move ahead and all as the board, not necessarily the governors, but we will keep the governors informed, as to how progress is being made so everybody does live in harmony.

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