Why the Social Care White Paper is right to make housing a focus
Over 4 million homes fail the basic health and safety tests, and over half of people who live in these are over 55. We need strong leadership to make sure housing is not left out of our health and care system.
In this blog Henry Smith, our Senior Programme Manager for Homes, talks about the recent Social Care Reform White Paper's focus on housing and why it's crucial that the government delivers on these promises.
Last week, the government published the Social Care Reform White Paper. The Paper rightly recognises that our homes are absolutely crucial to our wellbeing as we grow older. It makes a commitment to putting housing firmly within plans for health and care, with some funding available to make this possible, and makes it clear that we need strong leadership to make sure housing is not left out of our health and care system.
These are all moves in the right direction. Living in suitable housing - warm, comfortable and well adapted - plays a vital role in helping people to live happy, healthy later lives. Yet for so many people, their home is more of an obstacle course than a place of sanctuary. Over 4 million homes fail the basic health and safety tests, and over half of people who live in these are over 55. Poor quality housing costs the NHS £1.2bn a year. Any proposals to improve health and care must overcome the major barriers that people face to access housing that meets their needs.
The vast majority of older people are living in ordinary, mainstream houses and flats – and want to stay there, in their communities, as they grow older. But too many people’s homes don’t meet their needs, putting them at risk. The practical support offered in the White Paper - of a handyperson service for minor changes and repairs to homes - could help someone stay safe and independent in their own home for longer. It is also good to see an increase in upper limit of the Disabled Facilities Grant, and the pledge to support people with the financial advice to make decisions about their future housing and care needs.
The missing piece is how these plans will be delivered – and, in particular, how to ensure that people most in need of support are reached. As part of the Good Home Inquiry, we found that COVID-19 has exacerbated housing inequalities across the country.
Living in the right home with the support that we need is instrumental to prolonging our independence and ensuring that we can live fulfilling later lives.
We commissioned IPSOS Mori to undertake video diaries with people living in poor quality homes, and with Britain Thinks we held workshops with residents across tenures to find out what they thought about different policy solutions to the challenges they were facing. This included things like Green Loans, a home MOT, and restricting the sale or rent of poor-quality homes.
The stand-out finding from these groups was the importance of local, independent advice and support. This includes a place where people can go to access funding support available, trusted tradespeople, signposting to services – all tailored to a person’s individual needs. We are calling these ‘Good Home Agencies’. In many areas this could build and expand existing agencies, in others it would be creating new ones. We are currently piloting this approach with our strategic partners in Lincolnshire County Council. Our hope is to support more local, county and combined authorities across the country to create Good Home Agencies in their own communities. Integrated Care Partnerships will be embedding housing in broader health and care strategies and offer opportunities to take this forward at a local level.
All this work is so timely because we are faced with the huge challenge – and opportunity – of decarbonizing our housing stock to meet the government’s net zero target and make our contribution to prevent the very worst impacts of climate change. We must take this chance to deliver an holistic approach to retrofitting our homes to make sure that they are future proofed.
Living in the right home with the support that we need is instrumental to prolonging our independence and ensuring that we can live fulfilling later lives. As the government delivers on the commitments in the White Paper, it needs to overcome the barriers faced by those most housing need.