Growing pressure on central and local government finances may tempt some local authorities to reduce spending on housing-related support for older people. This idea briefly summarises the value of such support to individuals and how spending in this area results in much larger cost savings.

Demand for good-quality retirement housing, to rent and to buy, remains strong and is likely to increase as the population ages. Sheltered housing with a dedicated manager is a low-cost, high impact service which is greatly valued by older people. While some of the retirement housing stock is ageing, good quality housing and the dedicated scheme manager service have numerous benefits and mean older people are less likely to need higher cost services, such as residential care.

Why is this idea important?

Research by Capgemini (July 2009) indicates the £198.2m cost of housing-related support for people in sheltered housing delivers £646.9m-worth of benefits.

It has also been estimated that integrated early intervention programmes can produce savings of between £1.20 and £2.65 for every £1 spent[1].

In a recent survey for Anchor, more than three-quarters of our tenants said the scheme manager service was among the top reasons for living in sheltered housing.

Moves by some councils towards floating support, rather than dedicated support, undermine this. There has also been a great deal of local opposition to such moves.

Inside Housing reported that Barnet and Portsmouthcouncils acted unlawfully in the way they drew up plans for the removal of live-in sheltered housing wardens and both faced opposition to their plans.

A survey by Sheltered Housing UK[2], which represents sheltered housing residents, found all the people surveyed thought a site-specific warden was necessary. More than 90 per cent were unhappy with floating wardens, who visit several schemes. Almost all said their previous warden organised social events at their scheme and 90 per cent thought the loss of the warden had affected these activities.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said that local authorities and housing associations considering removing scheme managers should ballot tenants on the plan[3].

At Anchor, we have balloted tenants on whether they want to retain the scheme manager service when councils have moved to floating support. Tenants have voted to keep the service, sometimes funding it themselves. Our commitment to our customers means that we will continue to provide the services they tell us they want.

The rise in VAT to 20 per cent will hit older people hardest, as many older people have to spend a much larger proportion of their disposable income on necessities than younger groups. With this additional financial pressure, self-funding of the scheme manager service will be increasingly challenging.

As the Chartered Institute of Housing, the National Housing Federation and the National Federation of ALMOs say in their joint submission on the spending review[4], “Housing-related support provides essential preventative services to vulnerable people, helping around 1m people at any one time, and meeting the needs of a variety of vulnerable groups.” We consider this is particularly the case for older people living in sheltered housing.

It is crucial that funding for housing-related support for the dedicated scheme manager service is maintained to help older people to remain independent and active in the community. This will reduce isolation and loneliness and, as described above, provide significant financial savings in the years ahead.

[1]Turning Point, Benefits Realisation: Assessing the evidence for the cost benefit and cost effectiveness of integrated health and social care. February 2010.

[2]Inside Housing, Sheltered residents: ‘bring wardens back’, 05/02/10

[3]Inside Housing,Clegg: ‘Let elderly vote on wardens’,23/04/2010

[4]CIH, NHF National Federation of ALMOs, Responsible choices for a fairer future, July 2010

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