Looking back, looking forward

Care & Repair England is 30 years old.

Little did most of us back in the 1980s think that three decades on we would still be championing the importance of home repairs and adaptations to a decent older age.

One of the visionaries without whom none of the work of home improvement agencies would have happened is Mike Wright, who died recently just short of his 90th birthday.

Mike was an extraordinary character, an army colonel who, on retirement from the army in 1960, set up HACT, alongside a sister charity, Help the Aged Charitable Trust. It was Mike’s tireless fundraising and innovation that underpinned the development of many housing associations during the 60s and 70s, and that same passion which resulted in the creation of Care & Repair England (initially England and Wales).

Jane Minter, now our Head of Programmes, has written a detailed obituary about Mike’s work http://www.hact.org.uk/blog/2016/03/15/remembering-mike-wright which is a great reminder of what a difference one person can make.

Reflection on the past is a useful starting point for looking to the future. There remains a great deal to be done to reach the point where all older people are well housed in homes that are healthy and accessible. Mike will be an inspiration to us all in planning future action to achieve that ultimate aim.  [March 2016]

Off the radar?

Even though building new homes is high on the housing policy agenda, the condition of the housing that already exists hardly gets a mention.

It seems self evident to many of us that a warm, safe, decent home is a necessity for good health, particularly in later life when we spend more time in that home. So why so little attention?

It almost seems as if some sort of roof over your head is ‘good enough’ – to ask for that home to be a healthy, good place to live is expecting too much.

The NHS is facing unprecedented demands. Older people are more likely to live with the chronic health conditions which can be exacerbated by poor housing. So again, isn’t it obvious that better housing could reduce health service pressures?

We even have a cost savings figure. A report by the BRE The cost of poor housing to the NHS (Nicol et al (2014)) estimates that poor housing in England costs the NHS in excess of £1.4 billion a year.

Care & Repair England’s latest report Off the Radar: Housing disrepair & health impact in later life uses new data analysis (thanks to data supplied by the BRE) of the incidence of poor housing, alongside the age, health and tenure of the occupant.

There is a compelling case for action to reduce health hazards in ordinary, private housing, given that 79% of older people who live in non-decent homes are owner occupiers.

Definitely an opportune moment for Health and Well Being Boards to take a lead on this issue at a local level, as well as time to put housing stock condition back ‘On the Radar’ of national government policy. [March 2016]