As part of the Levelling Up White Paper, the Government announced the formation of a Housing for Older People’s Taskforce. These are giddy times for those of us who have worked to ensure housing sits at the centre of an integrated Health and Care system as the Task Force comes hot on the heels of the Social Care White Paper which announced new money to ensure Housing is part of the transformation of Health and Care and money for wider small repairs services.  

The first meeting of the Task Force is rumoured to be a few weeks away and while we do not yet know who will be on it, it is likely to include the great and the good from Social Care, Local government and Housing with Support as well as government. The Task Force is hugely welcome as previous Parliamentary Inquiries have noted that England’s housing stock has not been adjusted to reflect the needs and aspirations of an ageing population. Efforts by the Task Force to address issues of choice, quality and security will no doubt address the issue of an ageing housing stock accommodating and ageing population in inappropriate, hard to heat and unadaptable dwellings. 

The risk is that the Task Force will focus too tightly on the supply of specialist housing for older people. Now there is no doubt that as a country we will need to address the shortfall of specialist housing for older people or that the range of choice available to people must grow in terms of affordability, levels of support as well as being in the right place.  However, the Task Force must be mindful of the fact that 75% of older people live in their own mostly modest homes. That their existing homes provide very high levels of personal satisfaction and that there is a gap to be bridged between the homes people live in now and those that they might choose to live in in the relatively near future. 

That is not to say that providing adaptations and support in people’s existing home is primary. With some 28% of that housing stock being inaccessible and unadaptable, there is clearly a need for alternatives to suit every wallet. What people need is a helping hand for them to explore the options open to them and realise their choice. As many developers of specialist housing for older people, extra care facilities or Integrated Retirement Communities have a financial interest in attracting customers these options and move on support must be provided by an independent agency which allows people time to explore realistic options where they are. 

Foundations Independent Living Trust with the help of Taylor Wimpey commissioned a couple of Move On pilots last year. These demonstrated that the combination of new and local supported living accommodation and personal advice, information and practical help with moving accounted for half the successful moves achieved. In order to address the advice and information deficit, provide practical support in moving and support with the process, the Task Force will need to identify independent people as much as homes. The recent Good Homes Inquiry completed by the Centre for Ageing Better suggested local good home agencies would be in a position to provide these services independently from local housing providers and developers.  And of course, case-workers in Home Improvement Agencies have a long history of providing exactly such support. 

So I hope that when the Task Force meets later this month it will make sure that building the bridge from the existing homes of older people to new forms of integrated retirement living or extra care is part of the solution.