We need more housing help for elderly, say MPs

The Communities and Local Government Committee has said that a national strategy for older people's housing is needed to bring together and improve current policy.

The report, Housing for Older People, recommends that the wider availability of housing advice and information should be central to a new national strategy, with ideas mooted including ‘age proofing’ all new build homes and a national helpline to offer advice on housing options.

The committee also recommends that the National Planning Policy Framework be amended to encourage the development of more housing for older people and that councils identify a target proportion of new housing to be developed for this purpose, as well as additional funding for Home Improvement Agencies operating services including a handyperson service for older people.

Clive Betts, chair of the committee, said: "With an ageing population, it's vital that the link between housing and health and social care is recognised. A new national strategy for older people, taking on board the recommendations of our report, should be linked to the Government’s forthcoming social care green paper. There is a huge variety of housing options for those in later life, so it’s important that older people are given help to make the right decisions about their future.

“A properly funded telephone advice service, bringing together information on everything from repairs and heating to moving and care options, would help people to make the right choices and live comfortably whether in their present homes or by moving to different accommodation. The right kind of housing can help people stay healthy and support them to live independently. This can help reduce the need for home or residential care, bringing real benefits to the individual and also relieving pressure on the health service. The green paper must consider the range of housing for older people, from mainstream and accessible homes to supported and extra care housing, as well as access to adaptations and repairs."

Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s Housing spokesman, responded: “We face a chronic shortage of homes suitable to support our ageing population. Housing for elderly people currently accounts for just six per cent of our existing stock. There is a clear link between housing, health and social care, and this needs to be considered in the government’s forthcoming social care green paper. Decent, quality housing for older people will include adaptations that enables them to live at home independently and for longer, keeping them fit and well and out of hospital.

“But councils need the tools to build homes that meet the health needs of their older residents. This includes giving councils the freedom to borrow and invest in building new housing and retain receipts from Right to Buy sales in full so they can replace homes sold. Planning teams also need to be properly resourced so they can deliver homes faster and for planning powers to be given to councils to ensure the timely build out of homes and environments that are suitable to support positive ageing.”