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New strategy for older people’s housing needed, MPs warn

Sheltered housing in Leamington Spa.

A national strategy on supported and specialist housing is needed to help the two million older people in the UK living in poor quality housing, an all-party parliamentary group (APPG) has said.

Calling for greater integration between housing and health and care, the APPG for ageing and older people has urged government to restore funding for national and local housing advice services after conducting an inquiry into decent homes for older people.

In its report, published today, the APPG has also called for urgent funding and planning reforms to expand the availability of housing with care and to increase funding for adaptations and repairs.

‘Many older people are living in unsafe, unsuitable and unhealthy accommodation, with little hope of being able to move somewhere better or improve their homes,’ wrote the chair of the APPG, Rachael Maskell.

‘Unless we work to find tangible solutions older people and some of the most vulnerable in society will continue to live in substandard and unsuitable accommodation, the implications of which could be devastating to their physical, mental and social wellbeing.’

The APPG found that poor quality housing is costing the NHS £1.4bn a year, with cold, damp and other hazards worsening existing health conditions in older people such as heart disease and strokes and contributing to poor mental health.

The group has urged the government to ‘exercise leadership’ on the issue and integrate housing, health and care in ministers’ planning strategies, while making the housing requirements of older and disabled people a ‘much stronger component’ of the National Planning Policy Framework.

The report also recommended making energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority and making sure that all new homes are built to a ‘lifetime’ standard so they can be more easily adapted to residents’ needs as they age.

While the report noted that supported and retirement housing developments can provide ‘excellent services’ for some older people, it found that these are ‘unlikely to provide a solution for most older people in need in the foreseeable future’.

Instead, the APPG concluded that more sustainable solutions may be needed for the long term, such as more affordable social housing, with a growing number of older people facing insecurity in the private rented sector.

‘We must make it possible to improve the condition of the current housing stock so that older people living in their homes are safe and well,’ Maskell added.

‘It is also crucial that local authorities are able to plan and build new general purpose homes in the UK that are fully accessible, adaptable and built for life.’

Last month, NewStart spoke with Older Women’s Co-Housing (OWCH) to see whether co-housing could help relieve the strain on health and social care.

Image credit: lydia_shiningbrightly/Flickr

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