APPG Housing in the North discusses housing for older people

Chief Executives from the NHC membership were present at the last meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group Housing in North (APPG HiN) to hear how innovative approaches were being used to support older people to live independent lives.   APPG HiN Chair Ian Mearns MP also welcomed Lord Best, who updated attendees on the APPG Housing and Care for Older People and their work making the case for better housing provision for ageing communities in rural settings.

Tricia Grierson, the Head of Independent Living at Johnnie Johnson Housing Trust (JJHT), presented first on the various ways in which JJHT was helping their residents fulfil her organisation’s ‘living longer, living better’ ethos.  Tricia highlighted the Astraline service as an example of innovation driving improved support.  Originally intended to be a telecare monitoring service when it was first launched, Astraline today covers alarm and sensor monitoring, welfare calls, personal alarms to support independence, and support for people living with long term conditions.

Additionally, JJHT had also recently launched their Neighbourhoods Apartment scheme which aims  to save the NHS £1million by 2021 by offering a supported transition for patients from the hospital back home.  Here, tenants would be provided with suitable accommodation as well as access to wider support from JJHT’s Independent Living Coordinators.  Tricia emphasised that the combination of care but also support, for example financial advice or taking safeguarding concerns into account, was seeing a positive impact on tenant/patient wellbeing.

Attendees moved on to discuss challenges seen in the care and support system.  Central to this discussion was the recently published ADASS report ‘A Better Offer for Older People – Making extra care housing work for your community’ which suggests that not enough older people in the UK have the option of Extra Care when needed.  In exploring why this might be, the sustainability of over-relying on the largest supplier companies was questioned. An additional challenge was the care system’s ageing workforce.  A large percentage of care workers were reaching retirement age and there have been difficulties in attracting and retaining a younger workforce.

Lord Best was then introduced to update guests on the recommendations of the APPG Housing and Care for Older People’s inquiry into ‘Rural Housing for an Ageing Population’.  Findings and recommendations were published as the report ‘HAPPI 4: the Rural HAPPI Inquiry (Rural Housing for an Ageing Population: Preserving Independence)’.

Lord Best was enthusiastic in his support for smaller village developments for individuals who wished to move into a more suitable property but not move into large retirement schemes in nearby towns and cities.  Here, new build bungalows situated in or around the village would provide the suitable homes for older residents without requiring them to leave their community where they have a generational connection and social relationships.

Other recommendations from the HAPPI 4 report for local and national government were the specific allocation of housing for older people as part of Local Plans, as well as Homes England explicitly targeting a portion of their funding to providing for an ageing population.  Lord Best recalled previous successes where Local Authorities used social housing grants for specific types of homes, as opposed to ‘generic’ family homes.

The group discussed at length whether Stamp Duty relief should be aimed at those of pension age.  Lord Best felt that most subsidies for home ownership are aimed at young people.  At the same time, a sizeable proportion of older owner occupiers would benefit from downsizing but their demand was not being identified.

Building on Lord Best’s presentation, Neil Revely (NR), Housing Co-Lead, ADASS, informed the APPG of the upcoming Rural Housing for an Ageing Population Conference taking place in Harrogate 27 July 2018.  The event would explore the findings and recommendations from the HAPPI 4 report as mentioned by Lord Best whilst also looking at the policy context, challenges in delivery, and wider issues such as loneliness and isolation.   Neil was happy to say that the issues raised in the report had gained traction with various agencies and the event would have representation from the Local Government Association, ADASS, HousingLin, and the Northern Housing Consortium whose website was hosting further information on the conference and how to book (link above).

Ian Mearns MP closed the meeting by thanking everyone for their contributions. It was important that the APPH HiN considers a diverse range of issues and this discussion on housing for older people had certainly given everyone food for thought.

Full non-verbatim minutes of the APPG Housing in North 15 May 2018 will be available soon and can be accessed here.