Over two million over-55s live in a home that endangers their health or wellbeing, new report finds
According to a new report by the Centre for Ageing Better and Care & Repair England, over 4.3 million homes in England don’t meet basic standards of decency, most commonly because of the presence of a serious hazard to their occupants’ health or safety.
Using analysis of data from the 2017 English Housing Survey, the report into non-decent housing in England revealed that households headed by someone over 75 are disproportionately likely to be living in a non-decent home, and the problem has worsened for this age group.
Furthermore, the largest number of non-decent homes is among owner-occupiers, with many facing financial or practical barriers to maintaining their home, the organisations discovered. Meanwhile, the new report – ‘Home and dry: The need for decent homes in later life’ – suggests one-fifth of all homes in the private rented sector are non-decent.
The NHS spends an estimated £513 million on first-year treatment costs alone for over 55s living in the poorest housing. One of the major causes of death and injury amongst older people are falls in the home, says Ageing Better, while cold homes exacerbate a range of health problems including arthritis, COPD, and asthma, and increase the risk of an acute episode like a stroke or heart attack.
Although the average cost to repair these homes is predicted to be below £3,000, there are no specific policies in place to address non-decency, and previously available funding for low-income homeowners to maintain or repair their homes has been withdrawn.
In response to these “shocking” statistics, the Centre for Ageing Better and Care & Repair are calling on the new government to place this issue at the top of their agenda and act urgently to address the quality of housing stock, which they call a “national scandal”.
Anna Dixon, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Our report today shows the shocking scale of non-decent housing across England, with too many people in later life unable to afford or manage the vital repairs and maintenance their homes need. The result is millions of people living in conditions that put their health or safety at risk – it’s a national scandal.
“But our report also shows that this situation is far from inevitable. The average cost to bring a non-decent home up to a decent standard is estimated to be under £3,000, and a third of these homes could be repaired for less than £1,000. And yet the funding that used to be dedicated to addressing this issue has been withdrawn in recent years.
“An investment of £4.3 billion to repair hazards for households over 55 would be paid back in just eight years through savings to the NHS – not to mention the difference this would make to millions of people’s quality of life. Ensuring that everyone is able to live in a safe, decent home now and in the future must be central to the government’s housing policy.”
The organisations recommend that the UK Government creates new mechanisms to enable low-income homeowners, particularly those with health conditions, to bring homes up to basic standards of decency.
Ageing Better and Care & Repair England have also suggested that the government gives local authorities power, resources and capacity to address non-decent homes in their communities.
Sue Adams, Chief Executive at Care & Repair England, said: “Older people across the country tell us how important their homes are to their health and quality of life. Concerted action to make those homes safe, warm, decent places to live is a win-win solution.
“Everyone gains – the NHS cuts costs, the national housing stock is protected and individuals have improved lives.”
Following a letter written by the Home Adaptations Consortium to Matt Hancock MP pledging for support for an increase in funding for the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG), the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government announced that £505 million will be made available for the DFG in 2020-21 to help ensure vital adaptations in the home can be carried out.