Improving homes to change lives: Our 2021 manifesto

Chris Jones, Chief Executive of Care & Repair Cymru, writes...

In May, the people of Wales are due to elect their Members of the Welsh Parliament to represent us. Crucially for Care & Repair Cymru and the people we support, this is where decisions will be made by the next Welsh Government on a whole host of important areas, such as housing policy and the future of our health service.

It’s vital that the needs of vulnerable older people living in their own homes or privately renting, are high up the agenda of our politicians for the next five years. That’s why Care & Repair Cymru is today publishing our Senedd election manifesto, Improve Homes to Change Lives, to inform political parties as they consider their policies ahead of next May’s poll.

You can read the full manifesto below or download your copy here.

Our vision: Healthy homes for older people

We believe Wales must be a nation that empowers and provides choice for its ageing population. By committing to tackling the housing problems faced by older people, the next Welsh Government can ensure they can live with dignity and independence in their own homes for as long as they choose.

Homes must be made warm, safe, accessible and be adaptable across the life course. Progress has been made during the last Senedd term to build strategies that achieve this, whether that’s through the emphasis placed on prevention in the Social Services and Well-being Act of 2014, or the strong message of partnership and integration in the current Welsh Government A Healthier Wales strategy.

Our long experience of working with older people means our asks for the next Welsh Government are based on proven preventative interventions. Now, we must significantly scale up preventative housing policy and resources across Wales. It’s time for the next Welsh Government to put words into actions and provide healthy homes for older people, whatever type of housing they live in.

Our 5 asks for 2021

1. Older people should have a right to decent housing which is enshrined in law 

18% of houses in Wales pose an unacceptable risk to health, however with 19% of pensioners in Wales in poverty many older people cannot afford to complete repairs.

The next Welsh Government should commit to ensuring that no older person will live in a home that is dangerous or unfit for habitation by: 

  • Enshrining a right to decent housing in law to improve housing conditions for older people and future generations  
  • Setting a clear minimum standard of condition for private sector housing and a timescale to meet this standard  
  • Creating a national safety net grant programme for vulnerable older homeowners, available to Care & Repair, to support those who would otherwise have to live in unfit housing 

 

2. Older people should have easier access to the help they need to make their homes healthy 

The next Welsh Government should join up health and housing services more effectively so that older people can consistently get the help they need, through: 

  • A ‘Once for Wales’ approach to provide clarity and continuity of evidence-led best practice across housing and health, and nationally funded cohesive solutions for older people across Wales   
  • Continued core funding of Care & Repair services to sustain and expand our national Hospital to a Healthier Home provision across Wales
  • Ensure Regional Partnership Boards encourage a more equal relationship with third sector bodies and housing organisations

 

3. Older people should have equal access to housing adaptations across Wales  

Home adaptations are one of the most accessible, cost-effective, and integral ways of ensuring older people can live with dignity and independence in their own homes. The next Welsh Government should ensure every older person in Wales has equal access to these adaptations, whether they own their home or live in a rented property; through: 

  • A joined-up approach to funding adaptations, across housing, healthand social care, and local and national governments
  • Better local strategic planning for housing adaptations based on need and outcomes expected  
  • Increased and ringfenced funding for Care & Repair and the Rapid Response Adaptations Programme to protect existing equitable access to our services and do more of what we have proved works 

 

4. Older people should always be able to live in a warm home 

No older person’s life should be at risk at winter because they struggle to heat their home, yet older people are amongst those at greatest risk from cold and damp related respiratory, circulatory, and cardiovascular diseases. The next Welsh Government should commit to halving the number of older people in fuel poverty by 2025 through:  

  • Greater parity between health, housing, and energy to create year-round cross-sector preventative action 
  • Investment in a national targeted campaign to increase the take-up of Pension Credit
  • An explicit long-term plan to retrofit and decarbonise homes across Wales, with specific help for those who own their own homes 

 

5. Older people should be able to use technology to help them live independently

No older person should be excluded from technology that can help them live independent, healthy and happy lives at home. The next Welsh Government should take a preventative approach to using assistive technology through: 

  • Encouraging increased availability and take-up of user-friendly digital technology to support independent living, that is accessible for older people with complex needs
  • Increasing investment in developing and implementing technological solutions to the challenges of living independently
  • Allocating grants to upskill relevant workforces to meet the demands of changing digital innovation