There is a consensus that older people ideally want to remain in their own homes, with support if necessary, for as long as possible. As the majority housing tenure for older people is owner occupation the “stay put” ambition involves responsibilities for repair, maintenance and, for many, modifications in response to disability.
For those living alone on limited incomes and not able to undertake necessary works themselves these forms of investment are a source of genuine worry and anxiety. If not addressed unsatisfactory housing conditions present risks to the health and wellbeing of older people. Access to low or no cost independent and trustworthy advice/information and assistance services provided through home improvement agencies has been highly valued by this client group.
However due to continuing austerity affecting the public sector local home improvement agency services, particularly those that receive local authority funding, have experienced a reduced level of financial support or had funding removed. Care & Repair England argue that
- the demise of such prevention and response services really is storing up problems for the future especially to the health and social care sectors and
- investment in services providing housing interventions for older people constitutes a sound business case for those sectors
The challenge for housing providers is to convince health and care commissioners that investment in housing led interventions can contribute to meeting their outcomes. This is why, with the support of the British Society of Gerontology (BSG) and the University of Manchester’s Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing (MICRA), Care & Repair England in July 2017 organised a national conference examining the policy and practice framework for this issue. The title of the event was Small but Significant – Innovation, Impact and Evidence: Practical housing interventions to improve older people’s health and wellbeing. It included speakers who have been involved in service innovations that have already been evaluated including handyperson services linked in with ambulance service responses, to hospital discharge systems and pro-active home safety interventions.
What is striking in the majority of cutting edge practice is its fragility. It is often based on small scale, fixed term pilots, short term contracts, stop-start funding, with constant uncertainty for providers and practitioners.
Care & Repair England are firmly of the view that a coherent new national initiative is urgently needed that will once and for all firmly embed handyperson services into preventative, integrated health, care & housing systems.
Please click here for the Speakers presentations