This week’s blog from our General Election Series highlights why everyone in later life should feel safe, comfortable and secure at home.
A decent and comfortable home environment is important to all of us, but it’s especially important as we age. Older people can be particularly vulnerable to the effects of the cold, damp and hazardous housing conditions. It’s estimated that poor housing costs the NHS £600m every year, with a total cost to society of up to £1.5bn. That’s why Age UK is calling for a comprehensive joined up programme to improve home conditions for older people and new affordable ‘lifetime’ homes built to higher accessibility and energy efficiency standards.
Helping people make adaptations
Many older people need help and advice to repair, adapt or modify their homes. Home improvement agencies and handy person services continue to play a key role in offering practical assistance and can identify the resources needed to pay for work. Yet in recent years these services have been cut back, despite widespread cross party agreement on the essential role they play. Continue reading “General Election Series: Safe at home”
Feeling comfortable where we live is important to all of us.
Nobody wants to have a home they love turned into a prison because they can no longer get in the front door, or because they have to wash at the kitchen sink and use a commode in the living room because their only bathroom is upstairs.
But sadly, that’s exactly the position that too many of us are in. Today, at Leonard Cheshire Disability we have published a new report setting out the shocking scale of the housing crisis facing older and disabled people.
In its national planning guidance the Government says:
‘The need to provide housing for older people is critical, given the projected increase in the number of households aged 65 and over accounts for over half of the new households’
Yet, their current review of housing standards has failed to seize the opportunity to age proof all new homes. The measures they are proposing could in fact end up restricting progress on accessible housing. This is terrible news because accessible, well designed houses and flats give all of us the security of knowing that if our mobility is reduced, our homes make it much easier to live independently – hopefully in a location of our choice.
Instead the Government has made improved access standards for new homes an option, to be determined by local authorities. This option, known as ‘category 2’ is based on the Lifetime Homes Standard – a set of 16 criteria which make homes easier and cheaper to adapt.
This optional approach, which requires evidence of need and viability, seems to imply that life time homes should primarily be applied to retirement housing. Most of the house building industry seems to regard retirement schemes as the most sensible response to the projected growth in the older population. The implication is that if your housing becomes inaccessible, due to poor design, it simply requires you to move into retirement housing or residential care. Continue reading “Government failure on accessible housing undermines independent living”
The changes to the private pensions system were the big announcements affecting older people in this year’s Queen’s Speech, bringing into effect the shake-up of the annuities regime that was announced in the Budget in March.
While these measures, if done properly, are very welcome, the Government missed a big opportunity to introduce legislation to protect more vulnerable older people from abuse, and to seriously address cold homes, which over a million older people are estimated to find themselves in every year.
Effective housing policies will make or break the UK’s ability to meet the challenges posed by our ageing population. Building homes that remain accessible for all stages of a person’s life and can be adapted easily, taking into account diverse and changing need, just makes sense.
Habinteg and Age UK have both contributed to the Government’s review of housing standards consultation and made the case for national standards that increase the supply of accessible homes. The new three tiered approach recommended by the Government needs to prioritise access issues. Without this local and national commitment, the homes of the future will simply not provide for the needs of the increasing number of older and disabled people in the UK.
An ageing population
The projections could not be clearer. By 2030, one in three people in the UK will be aged over 55 with the number of disabled people estimated to rise to 4.6million by 2041.
Does housing wealth really have untapped potential to fund care and support options for older people? Recently Age UK held a policy seminar on housing inequality among older people to consider this and a number of other related questions, with the help of some leading experts. The conclusions they drew seem to challenge a number of faulty assumptions about housing wealth – assumptions that are shaping the thinking of policy makers. Dr Beverly Searleof St. Andrew’s University offered an alternative and more complex picture of the distribution of housing prosperity in England and the implications for policy.
Dr Searle described dramatic geographical variations in the location of housing wealth – linked to house prices – which determine the equity available to older people and the choices they can make. Dr Searle found that 42% of housing wealth is concentrated in London and the South East, while 20% is located in the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside and the North West combined. Only 3% of housing wealth is found in North East. These inequalities mean that some housing and care options will only be available in affluent places, while choices for older people in poorer areas decline.