Welsh Housing Report 3

Over the past two weekends I have been offering my thoughts on the recently published report ” OUR HOUSING AGENDA: MEETING THE ASPIRATIONS OF OLDER PEOPLE IN WALES “.     It is a comprehensive and ambitious effort to build a vision for housing for older people in Wales.  (You can see my earlier posts by clicking on “Retirement Housing” in the TOPICS LIST).

Like the rest of the UK,  the demographics of the elderly population are changing on a scale not seen before.   In Wales there are particular characteristics which need to be addressed.   Many of  the oldest elderly grew up in the relatively impoverished industrial era of Aneurin Bevan.   The coal mines, the slate quarries, the iron and steel industries, were the life blood of large areas of Wales at the beginning of the 20th century.    That left a legacy of housing not well suited to growing old.

In many cases the oldest generations’ baby boomer children have inherited this legacy.     They form the big wave of baby boomers who are now entering retirement.   We should also not forget that in the hinterlands of the industrial areas there are also many older people isolated in rural communities.

These are my broad conclusions about the report’s proposals:-

The first significant point about older people aspirations is that most of them wish to stay in their own homes.  For the majority of them, the barriers to this option, whilst they may be significant, are not insurmountable.   Indeed the reality is that if nothing is done, that is exactly what will happen anyway, but for many people remaining in their homes will leave them more impoverished as costs rise and in a deteriorating state of health.   As the report states, there is much that can be done to help and support people to stay in their own homes.  This point was covered in my first post and highlighted the benefits of falls programmes, energy conservation measures, welfare benefits checks etc. Many of these services are provided by voluntary / charitable organisations, often supported by Local Authority or Health Authority grants.  Sadly in these austere times these are the very areas that are being cut.

Nonetheless, enabling people to remain in their own homes, not only fulfils their aspirations, but is likely to be cheaper to the public purse than the alternative higher costs of residential care and / or frequent hospital admissions.  Therefore it is essential to develop a much expanded programme of pro-active healthcare in terms of well-being programmes.  This then needs to be complemented with Social Services support for those who also need care in the community.  This is the opposite direction to the way Public Policy has moved in recent years when austerity has forced both Health and Social Services to concentrate only on the very frailest older people.  This is not another vainglorious cry for more public money, welcome as that would be.  Rather we need to find new and innovative ways of supporting these programmes and self-financing much of the care.  Certainly it is the case that many older people are asset-rich and income-poor and if we can find ways of unlocking the assets they have in their homes to provide for their care, it would enable them to live at home for much longer.  However, the existing ways of doing this in the form of equity release, do not represent good value for money and new innovative financial models have to be developed.

The second key area in the report is the proposal to develop 20,000 new retirement homes.    My second post expanded on the proposition with considerable scepticism.  Not because it isn’t a desirable option, but its achievement is unlikely without radical changes in the approach to how new housing can be both financed and planned for. All the current housing finance models for affordable public housing, require substantial capital grants, which are not likely to be available on the scale required.  Models do exist with a cross-subsidised blended mix of public and private ownership.  Shared ownership would unlock the assets of existing homeowners, but not if they need continued grants support for the unpurchased equity.  The second half of this development problem is the planning system and its link to the availability of land.  As discussed in my earlier post, this would need a radical review of Section 106 Affordability Requirements, CIL Payments and probably Greenbelt restrictions.  All of this can only be achieved with strong political support at National and Local Authority levels.  Whilst public funding would help to kick-start this programme, there is no question that a housing programme on this scale will require substantial private investment.

The third key ingredient to delivering the report aspirations, has to be innovation.   Large institutions such as Governments, Local Authorities and Health Authorities are not generally known for their innovative skills.   For such a radical shift in approach, it will be necessary to harness the goodwill of these institutions to trial new ideas in a series of pilot projects.  The best and most successful of these might then show the way to rolling out a bigger and more comprehensive programme in future years.

My final thoughts go beyond the Report’s findings and suggest a possible way in which a large-scale programme to meet the housing aspirations of older people in Wales.  I will write about this in a final blog in the weeks ahead but first I need to consult with my fellow GrumbleSmiles Trust Trustees and also with some of the authors of the Report.



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4 Responses to Welsh Housing Report 3

  1. davidwfreeman237 says:

    Dear John your articles, on Housing have stirred many passions within me! From the ‘’Housing delusion’’ to the three papers on ‘’Housing in Wales’’.
    I must write as an individual, with thoughts that are very close to me, from observations gained in life since I have retired and come across the ‘Extracare Charitable Trust of Coventry’’.
    With respect to the 59 page report on Housing in Wales; it is a substantial document, to which I could reply sentence by sentence etc. However I just wish to make observations from my personal viewpoint.
    I was fortunate, I had/have since my early married life owned through mortgage arrangements our own home/property.
    When we came to retire, we realised our children had left home, and were setting out on life’s rich pathway: We had a detached home 3 bedrooms, and a garden. The house when we bought it some years prior as the same reason for our earlier homes was located for reasons of commuting, services, and education for our children. We had not out grown the last property we owned, however the requirement had changed.
    We were now the elder generation and our parents need comfort and support: Both our parents families lived some 3.5 hours travel away, and our siblings were closer at hand. Our parents were in suitable accommodation for their needs, so we thought?
    My wife’s parents were in ‘Old age council accommodation housing’, and my parents in a Bungalow.
    My wife’s parents had good community neighbours in the ‘’as built’’ old age housing (Terrace house), and could and did rely on the community spirit of support.
    My parents lived in a bungalow with (for them) a relatively large garden.
    While both sets of parents remained alive there were no problems, just frailty and old age (No infirmity). My parents found the upkeep of the property, and the garden a worry: because of the inability to physically complete tasks of repair, or maintenance, and the reliance on good trust worthy tradesmen to undertake any task, and the cost of labour by the tradesman, on a fixed pension income- The worry grew as they grew into their mid and late 70’s and older.
    In both instances both for my parents and my wife’s the husband (Dads) passed away first leaving a widow. My wife’s mother remained in the house and the community spirit supported her to the end.
    My Mother was lost, and became ‘aimless’, developing Alzheimer’s and dementia, so the great family moved mum into a residential home, of which the property asset became her paymaster, as her savings and reduced pension could not justify the ongoing cost in the residential home. The community and support within this residential home gave Mum a good life for some future 8 years passing away at the age of 94, and less seldom, but often recognising not only her family children but ours, and her great-great grandchild.
    Both Mums, my wife’s and mine on the initial death of their husband and for some years later all ways said there were some lonely moments in their life, especially when it was dark and the front door was shut.
    This was the background to Our Move, and following the ‘Extracare Charitable Trusts Retirement Village concepts
    Concept Observations of a retirement Village.
    We were actively encouraged to examine/visit/ talk too persons about retirement accommodation such as developers (Stone McCarthy- Hanover Housing- warden housing-Churchill housing-Antsy Housing; etc. and many others.) And downsizing into a flat or smaller house (bungalow) from our detached house at the time? By the Extracare Charitable Trust promotion team.
    This we did, considering all the costs, and financial and pension income implications, and we came back to the Extracare basic concepts of a retirement village, to review the following:
    Property was offered as 1/3 leasehold; 1/3 shared ownership; 1/3 social council, within a retirement village of some 254 properties.
    Then domically care was offered to all (One pays), of which 1/3 of the total population were to utilise the support, otherwise it was not an economic package
    Then the age profile of interested prospective villagers and it ran from 55+ to 65 some 15%; then 65-75 some 35% then 75-85 some 35% and the remainder 85+ (give or take a few percentages this was the ideal)
    Ethos of the Village concept was to enjoy life in retirement, form and join in as many actives as one wished, and to actively volunteer, to keep one active, fit, mobile, and within the social intercourse of the village structure (One can still be lonely within a crowd?).
    Having looked at these aspects, one was faced with the practical, advantages of selecting retirement village life
    Practical Observations
    Access to within the total village was key controlled centrally and too one’s accommodation
    All door portals with in the village and personal accommodation, and lifts is wide enough for an egress/exit of a large electric wheel chair.
    All toilet facilities are built as wet rooms (No baths- but showers)
    Within private accommodation, fitted as standard are; fire detection system in each room, emergency lights fitted in all rooms, alarm cords and a connected speaker phone service for all envisage emergencies, where support is or maybe required in an emergency. An internal telephone service receiver where one can report or a voluntary basis daily to say one is well? If not done a follow up call by telephone or visit is conducted to check one well being
    In addition to this there are in built service spaces, and activity rooms, such as:
    Reception area advice/ back office and support/ meeting rooms/ craft rooms/ seating areas/ a café-bar/ a restaurant and a large hall, laundrette/hairdressing salon, IT (Web connected) suite/ library/ a corner shop managed and run by an outside provider.
    Extracare Provide the services of a ‘Locksmith’ (Dementia advice and activities) ‘’A wellbeing Nurse’’, whom is on hand to advise not clinical health problems, but diagnostic advice, and a monitoring role when professional medical care should be sought.
    They then have a benefits, and financially advice service, which does not advise one in detail but helps one identify professional support that may be required.
    The total outcome depending whether one is a leaseholder/shared ownership/ or social/rented ones outgoings are in a controlled and known manner. The upkeep of internal property decoration and fittings is one responsibility, but the external decorations and communal areas are paid for by a weekly communal charge- WHICH EXTRACARE INVITE ONE TO CLOSELY EXAMINE before becoming a tenant.
    Apart from rent/shared proportions/ the only weekly outgoings apart from food and sustenance is the national telephone service, and the local council tax (Poll tax), and a reduced TV/radio licence.
    Observation’s as a Resident of the Retirement Village.
    The age profile has increased from an average of 72 in 2007 to 79 in 2026, this reflexes the UK aging population? (One has to be careful that one still has fit and able or less able persons committed to volunteering).
    Most of the incomers since the village was built/opened in 2007 look at the life style and relax and enjoy the comforts of the village as provided, and when if they move in as a couple, look forward to life and should their partner die, the ongoing friendships and support they have built up and experienced in the village life.
    I have laboured my personal views on growing old, and the above welsh paper, has to satisfy so many different criteria
    The main problems I believe are the people themselves: they must access what they believe they may require, and that they do not examine their own frailties’, with respect to infirmity, companionship in the main, and their realistic look at financial assets, where to spend them, or distribute them, either within their own families on in society by firstly looking after their own wellbeing, so lightening the financial load on others within that society.
    Even as I look out of my own ‘’Ivory Tower’’ there are fault lines within my own thinking, but hopeful with the guidance of my wife and children, I am not wearing ‘’rose tinted spectacles’’
    The life in retirement is and can be a long and successful one, infirmity and access problems can make the last few years of life a bind, and total support may not be required until, one final year(s) or months, so the problems of access, and community spirit and support have to be thought out, they cannot at the’’’ last knockings of life’’’ be demanded, or expected, unless one has made provision for such outcomes

    • john graham says:

      Thank you David, that is a really helpful overview of later life. First of all you have reminded us that we are all part of an extended family with responsibility to to our ageing parents, but also to our children and grandchildren. You also give us an ” expert ” view of life in a retirement village and responsibilities to and opportunities with fellow residents.
      Apart from us all living longer, families are more dispersed these days which makes wider informal community support even more important in old age. We can’t leave companionship and friendship to the state.

  2. davidwfreeman237 says:

    one has to be careful, both as an investor and housing provider, in that the returns on capital expenditure for the likes of ‘as built’ designer accommodation for the elderly,has the social lifespan for that group of society?
    The Uk will always have an elderly group of citizens to be catered for? but what percentage will they be of the population? We cannot become the OAP’s destination within Europe, we must be able to stand alone! This is maybe selfish, however we are at present catering or trying to cater for the UK’s age and baby boom of the late 50′ &60’s, and how much of a ”bulge” is this group of people?
    The ideology of the Maggie thatcher days, was in hindsight and the encouragement for the then younger person become involved in the ownership of property (privately owned- not through the ballot box and publicly owned-council housing), a good idea? or has that dream of state independent fallen flat and overloaded the social/council housing provision, and the ‘Housing association movement’ been unable to step up, and again lacking in investment to provide housing for all sectors of society.
    It is a problem to solve, and the release of property equity as John has discussed been a difficult problem to solve both culturally and practically. Maybe history has a part to play of the 20th century (Two world wars and a financial depression of the 30’s). The elderly most believe to be independent of the state: and is to provide for one’s family and its younger generation?
    We have a national debt which is escalating, and a ‘Dickens philosophy of Micawber [ spend 99p in the pound happiness and then spend £1.01- unhappiness], and national politics of the never never land pay off tomorrow, both of these scenario’s do not fit? as an individual we have to look after the family purse first, and secondly the national expenditure: But be aware where we are going and becoming slaves to the currency of the lender [ however made, and promises entered into], so what do we all wish for the UK, and too some extent ourselves in old age.
    Life is a compromise, and commitments made, it is not a question of winners and losers but hardheaded choices, made with integrity and understanding from both parties in the agreement? we must share any agreement made in good faith with understanding and not pure ‘avarice’

  3. davidwfreeman237 says:

    I am in ‘limbo’, and bemused concerning care. John you have responded for some three weeks by a weekly comments page on care in Wales: This week as a matter of interest I watch the Mondays 20/03/2017 BBC1 TV programme on Care by Panorama.
    My comments are personal and refer to the programme as broadcast. The first thing I noted was the programme was based on care in the home for the elderly in North Wales around Bangor?
    The provider of care services (companies) contracted to the local councils, appeared to complain about the lack of qualified staff to the services of care required, at the monies payable by the local councils. The programme then followed carers in the field, and in this geographically area, and I noted and they commented on the mileage required between clients to be treated within their homes [the care is being promoted as care in the home]. A further complication is time spent with each patient / resident, within the travel and call time allocated.
    The whole programme presented an emotional picture of lack of service, due to lack of time, monies paid to carers [zero hour contracts], and their companies, so they could improve services.
    The programme did not distinguish between social care paid for by councils and private care schemes? The care industry services both the private and social sectors, and what is not considered rationally, is the relationship between what is provided as a minimum of service to support life, and what the expectancy is of the patient/resident to remain as an individual living an as an independent life style? Here I suspect the actual solution is somewhere between a social and private service-with a schedule or memorandum of understanding, which can guarantee a minimum of service level, and an ability to top up Care provisions for all ages, such that we all remain with the aspirations and principles of independent living, with a cash contribution on a contractual basis [by time limits or care services personally tailored to ones wishes].
    I believe we need to re look at the care industry, and review the demands we have conceptually, as to what is provided by the council and the state, and what is personal demands based on a very personal requirements. With this view in mind we must as a society look at what taxes we are prepared to pay for care, and from this view point the NHS budget, and as to what part of the total budget is devoted to care for independent living.

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