Why we need new housing solutions for older Londoners
EAC are committed to providing our FirstStop Advice clients with the full range of housing options that are available to them. Typically, when a person begins to require some degree of support with housework, or the reassurance of having another person nearby, they might consider ‘sheltered housing’ where connections to support services, a warden and a social atmosphere might help to address their needs.
However, in recent years it has become increasingly difficult to find this form of retirement housing within our capital. Those schemes that have properties to let are often subject to the council’s choice-based lettings system which is likely to exclude homeowners, those living outside of the council area and people who the council consider to be ‘suitably housed’, even if their home is not suitable for the long term. The leasehold retirement housing sector is growing, but this growth is slow in London and often homeowners would prefer to release their capital and rent, or they are concerned about the, sometimes quite considerable, service charges and whether these are affordable in the long term.
So our advisors are often required to look towards other housing options. If you are a homeowner, adapting your current home is a great place to start and local Home Improvement Agencies provide a fantastic service. If you wished to rent you could contact local Almhouses (independent charities) or rent privately through an agency such as Girlings, although the prices through such agencies can be prohibitive for some. An increasing option is to move out of London all together, and schemes such as Seaside and Country Homes can help council and housing association tenants with doing so, whilst home owners of course are much more likely to afford the home they desire outside of London. Another growing option is the ‘co-housing’ movement which has a number of developments across the capital and aspires to create inter-generational cohesive communities.
For younger people living within London the housing options seem even fewer, with many taking a chance on living with almost complete strangers in a shared house or paying a phenomenal amount to rent their own place. The costs of renting in London, even in a shared house, can be crippling to students and the employed alike.
So, what is Homeshare?
The homeshare model has been well established in many countries across the world, such as Germany, France, New Zealand and the United States for many years. Schemes can vary slightly between providers but generally involves a householder, often an older person, giving up one of their spare room to a homesharer, often a student or young professional. In return for their room, the homesharer provides a number of hours of home help each week, which is agreed between the householder and homesharer. This gives the householder valuable support with domestic tasks around the home, as well as the social aspect and reassurance of living with someone.
Some of the services a homesharer might provide are:
- Help with shopping
- Pet care
- Help to use technology, such as a computer, laptop or tablet
It is important at this point to point out that a homesharer is not an alternative to a carer, if a householder requires personal care services then we would recommend requesting an assessment of their needs from the Adult Social Care department of their local authority, or, for those in a position to pay for care privately, finding a home care agency registered with the UK Home Care Association (UKHCA).
What does it cost?
Homeshare schemes are co-ordinated by agencies that act as a go-between for the householder and homesharer. They are responsible for vetting the homesharer (Disclosure and Barring Service checks, references and interviews) and ‘matching’ the two parties. The homeshare agency will then arrange a meeting with both parties, to ensure that they are happy to continue with the homshare. Ongoingly, the homeshare agency is a point of contact to help resolve disputes or bring a homeshare to an end, if it is necessary to do so.
Fees will vary between agencies but are often between £200-£400 per month, with the householder and homesharer paying a portion of this. For the homesharer this is considerably cheaper than the rental would otherwise be on a London property, for the householder they are benefiting, not only from having the company, but also the practical support around the house that they would otherwise have to pay for. When you consider that many older people are eligible for Attendance Allowance of approximately £55 per week, the homeshare model becomes more affordable for both parties.
Homeshare in the UK
Whilst there are currently 13 homeshare agencies across the UK, a network that is co-ordinated centrally by SharedLives, it is fair to say that homeshare in the UK has not attracted the same level of attraction that it has with our European neighbours.
We are therefore encouraged that the Big Lottery Fund (BLF) and the Lloyds Bank Foundation have committed funding to Novus Homeshare, a registered charity currently operating across London, with the vision that they will expand their services across the capital.
BLF and Lloyds are also funding a similar project being run by Age UK Oxfordshire with the remainder of the total £2m investment being made available to additional pilot projects across the UK. You can read full details on the Lloyds website, here.
With organisations such as SharedLives, Age UK, The Foyer Federation and the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) contributing their experience and expertise with regards to the promotion and delivery in areas with a homeshare service, EAC are hopeful that homeshare will become an accepted housing option for people in later life, as well as an affordable alternative for younger people.
EAC and Homeshare
EAC and FirstStop have published an information factsheet on Homesharing for the last few years and, as I have explained above, we regularly discuss homeshare in the context of a wider conversation with our clients about housing options. However, we are keen to do more to promote homeshare as a viable alternative to buying in costly home help services or joining the growing waiting lists for sheltered housing, we are hoping to work with Novus Homeshare over the coming months and years to help promote and educate older people about the homeshare services that they have access to in their area.
We are already working with local partners across the UK to deliver housing options advice, one example being in the London Borough of Barnet where we are working closely with Age UK Barnet to deliver housing options advice and bring together a network of housing and social care professionals for the benefit of older people. Barnet Council’s Adults and Communities department appear to understand the social and economic benefits and are also working closely with Novus to promote homeshare within the borough.
With local authorities experiencing an increasing demand on their limited housing stock, especially in London, and Adult Social Care departments struggling to connect older people with home help services in their borough, embracing the homeshare model and working with providers to offer a viable alternative to older and younger people alike, is something that EAC are keen to support.