'We must not overlook the value of sheltered housing'
As the government's consultation on a new funding structure for supported housing ends, Bruce Moore, the chief executive of Housing & Care 21, says it must not overlook the 300,000 older people who live in sheltered housing.
Donald Trump’s electoral success in 2016, despite his vilification by the media, the political establishment and even his own party, came because he successfully connected with and addressed the hopes and fears of the silent majority of Americans rather than just the vociferous liberal elite.
This was also the strategy adopted by Nixon in his 1972 landslide victory, when he won in 49 of the 50 states, despite his refusal to yield to the protests and calls for an immediate end to the war in Vietnam. Nixon recognised the quiet power of the older generation and the ‘forgotten middle’ of America. Ronald Reagan had similar success in 1984 when he also adopted the same tactics of focusing on the concerns of this silent majority.
It was the silent majority that voted for Brexit and Theresa May appears concerned to not to make the mistakes of her political predecessors by taking their loyalty for granted. At least I hope this is the case.
She made a very fine speech when she entered No.10 for the first time as Prime Minister about the importance of social justice and helping those who are just about managing. But she didn’t mention anything about how she intended to support the growing population of older people without great wealth or occupational pensions to continue to live with dignity and in good health.
Some 71% of the people affected by the proposals for reform of the funding for supported housing are older people and most of these live in sheltered housing – they are the silent majority.
Pegging supported housing costs to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate doesn’t make any sense for anyone in the longer term. The LHA does not take account of the type of buildings required for supported housing or the service charges required to maintain them and everyone knows that ring-fenced funds simply don’t last (Supporting People provides clear evidence of this).
But the concern is that in designing the bureaucratic mechanisms to distribute the promised funding between local authorities and then requiring them to prioritise the services they will continue to support, it is the silent majority of more than 300,000 older people who live in sheltered housing that will eventually lose out.
Extra Care, although more expensive to run, may be OK if it continues to be commissioned by local authorities as an alternative to residential care, but sheltered housing is not typically commissioned so its beneficial impact as a preventative service is in the greatest danger of being overlooked, even though the average shortfall compared with the LHA is less than £20 per week.
The health service and social care are both in crisis because of the pressures of trying to provide for the needs of a growing older population.
Now is surely not the time to pull the plug on sheltered housing.
We are urging the government to not overlook or ignore the concerns of the (so far largely) silent majority of older people living in sheltered housing. Because, as recent events have shown, if this happens there may be consequences.
Bruce Moore will join fellow experts to explore the challenge of building suitable housing for older people in a session at our South East Conference from 6-8 March.