Sometimes it can feel as if all of the effort that we put into raising the profile of the wider housing and ageing issues is getting us nowhere, as we hear of yet another great local Care & Repair or similar service closing down.
However, as I read the conclusions in the Communities and Local Government Select Committee Inquiry into Older People’s Housing Report, the work that we put into making representations to this all felt worthwhile.
The list of recommendations are all ones that Care & Repair England had either put forward or endorsed, particularly the critical role of home improvement agencies, handyperson services, information and advice about housing options plus home adaptations, all of which are relevant to the vast majority of older people living in ordinary housing.
We also support building better new homes for future generations of older people, making new homes more accessible and flexible across the life-course, as well as building specialist and innovative new homes to meet specific needs.
The Committee’s recommendation to develop a new national strategy for older people’s housing is also timely, given the current high level policy interest in housing.
Best not to reinvent the wheel, so any new strategy really should build on the excellent work which resulted in the last comprehensive strategy on this subject, Lifetime Homes, Lifetime Neighbourhoods. Whilst I would say that, wouldn’t I (as the Chair of the government’s advisory committee on the subject at the time), this Strategy did receive cross government and multi- party support, as well as attracting international interest and approval.
But let us not get carried away quite yet. A Select Committee report is great – but what really matters is the extent to which the recommended actions are taken up by the Government of the day.
At the front line we are seeing decommissioning of preventative services such as impartial info and advice, independent HIAs and handyperson services at an unprecedented rate, with the resulting loss of skills and knowledge built up over decades.
Rapid action is needed to ‘stop the rot’ now – it will be so much harder to rebuild from scratch.