Housing and social care can work well together

Featured article - 01 December 2020
By Aileen Evans, Group Chief Executive, Grand Union Housing Group

Aileen Evans, Group Chief Executive, Grand Union Housing Group

Social housing and social care are both in crisis. For many years, and in different ways, each has been underfunded and struggling to deliver for the people that depend on them. In the face of these challenges, we’ve learned to innovate and to develop our creativity and problem-solving skills, and we’ve seen some excellent examples of joint working and partnership at operational level – particularly in recent months.

But what about the strategic level? What’s coming at us, and how will housing and social care respond?

We know we have an ageing population in the UK. The 85+ age group is the fastest growing of all, and is set to double to 3.2 million by mid-2041 and treble by 2066 (5.1 million; 7% of the UK population - ONS, 2018). Although healthy life expectancy is also increasing, we must realistically expect that a growing proportion of people will need support. And according to Age UK a growing proportion of older people are likely to live in the private rented sector.

This is a big change from the situation in recent years, where most older people were owner occupiers. For good or ill, many have been able to rely on the value of their home to support the cost of care in later years. But already, 21% of people over 55 have no housing wealth at all . This figure includes social housing tenants, but they at least have a secure home in which care can be provided; and a landlord that will support adaptations or a move to a more care-friendly setting. People growing old in the private rented sector have neither of these.

A way forward

While this all sounds pretty challenging, we think there’s a solution. The buy to let revolution hasn’t worked, and the private rented sector isn’t yet a good place to grow old. We urgently need more homes for social rent, as well as more for owner occupiers, including those suitable for down-sizing in later life. And we need them to be built in a way that is safe and suitable for anyone that’s disabled or in need of care. The Chartered Institute of Housing is part of the HoME coalition, campaigning for Housing Made for Everyone. The standards they promote deliver a home that supports independence, minimises the cost of adaptations, and reduces the burden on the most expensive forms of social care.

Housing and social care have shown time and again that we can work well together day to day. Supporting the delivery of more new homes, built to high, accessible standards, that promote independence and facilitate care, unites us at a strategic level to the benefit of the people that need us both.

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