A new strategy aimed at reigniting the housing market and getting the nation building again was launched on 21 November by the Prime Minister.
The Housing Strategy sets out a package of reforms to:
· get the housing market moving again
· lay the foundations for a more responsive, effective and stable housing market in the future
· support choice and quality for tenants
· improve environmental standards and design quality.
The new strategy will address concerns across the housing market making it easier to secure mortgages on new homes, improving fairness in social housing and ensuring homes that have been left empty for years are lived in once again.
Laying the Foundations: A Housing Strategy for England - Housing - Department for Communities and Local Government
Chapter 6 – Quality of housing experience and support - talks about plans to help support older people:
·1.5m invested in the FirstStop information service for housing options
· Funding for the Disabled Facilities Grant is protected
· £51m invested in handyperson schemes for repairs and adaptations
· Further support for Home Improvement Agencies to extend the reach of their services, and to support Foundations, their national body.
· Work to be carried out with the financial services industry to create new equity release products for older people
· £400m allocated to homelessness prevention
In making the case for a new approach the government states “Half of all householders in England are older ‘established homeowners’. Some 42% are retired and 66% own their own home outright. As life expectancy increases, more of these households will need support to remain in their own homes in later life. Limited choice in the housing market makes it difficult for older households to find homes that fully meet their needs”
· Daniel Pearson, Director of FirstStop comments ‘As Director of FirstStop I'm positive about the emphasis on good information in the Government strategy but I think it's fair to say that we need to raise awareness among local authorities, in particular, that we can help them fulfil their responsibilities on transforming adult social care through information & advice as well as advice to older people on their housing options. To date, we have local partners in over 20 areas but have ambitions to have a local partner in every social services authority area within five years. To achieve its potential FirstStop can only grow its service with support from housing, health and social care authorities but we have to demonstrate what they will gain.
The investment of £1.5M by DCLG is a very welcome first step in building the kind of network of advice on housing and care options older people need but local partnership will require more local support. What Government wants to do on equity release, the Green Deal and promotion of initiatives such as Homeshare all depends on older people being more informed and so better able to make the decision that is right for them, which puts a premium on the quality advice the FirstStop network can deliver through the web, over the phone and face to face.
Peer support and peer feedback are also crucial in promoting the service and changing it to better meet people's needs. In the current mixed economy of public & private funding of housing & care, we also need to make sure that people who fund their own care and support can easily access quality advice. The impact of personalisation on housing providers as well as social services is part of the same trend to put the individual at the centre of the service but collective provision of advice is crucial if individuals are to benefit. The Government's recognition of this in the Housing Strategy gives us a good foundation to build on.’