28.When we asked our witnesses how most older people lived, we were told that the majority lived in “ordinary housing, whether as owner-occupiers, social tenants or private rented tenants”. According to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2012, 93% of older people live in mainstream housing. We believe that the size of this group, and the issues relating to ageing in mainstream housing, mean it deserves particular attention.
29.Older people ‘stay put’ for different reasons. A survey in 2015 of 1389 people aged 50 or over by the Centre for Ageing Better found that “most people in later life do not intend on moving and wish to continue to live in their own homes for as long as possible”. One contributor posted the following comment on our web forum, revealing some of the reasons why people wish to ‘stay put’:
I do not plan on ever moving from my home—I lived here with my late husband who had Alzheimer’s and died 8 years ago at home [ … ] I love my patio garden—although I drive—I have shops and a bus stop easily within walking distance. People say why don’t I move somewhere smaller but I love my home and think that is a good enough reason to stay where I am.
30.Some people who would like to move stay put, often because of the costs of moving and the difficulty of finding a suitable new home (we consider the barriers to moving in chapter five and the availability of different housing options in chapter six). Foundations, the national Body for Home Improvement Agencies, pointed out that, given the supply of specialist housing (considered at paragraphs 85 to 86), mainstream housing had to play a significant role in housing older people:
With people over 65 growing by 155,000 every year and accounting for 74% of total household growth to 2037, the current 2.8% of retirement housing under construction as a percentage of all housing under construction would require an unprecedented and likely to be unachievable rise. Appropriate accommodation can therefore only be created in the general housing stock both existing and under construction.
31.Given most older people live in mainstream housing, something which is likely to continue, Sue Adams of Care and Repair said it had a “pivotal role [ … ] in ageing well, healthily and safely”. We heard, however, that heating the home and keeping it in a healthy and safe condition can be a struggle for many older people, 78% of whom are owner occupiers meaning maintenance and repair falls to them alone. The Decent Homes standard is a nationally defined standard measured by indicators, including need for urgent repairs, age of the kitchen and bathroom facilities and thermal comfort, as well as ‘Category 1 hazards’ (most commonly risks of falls and excess cold). Research by Care and Repair found that, in 2012, 79% of households aged 65 years or over who were living in a non-decent home were owner occupiers and 85% of homes found to contain a Category 1 hazard were owner occupied. Sue Adams explained why older home owners often struggled:
There is an issue around the affordability of the ongoing maintenance of a home among lower-income groups. Even for people in the middle, where they might have some money to do the work—especially older and single people, which is the profile of many Care and Repair service users—there is a massive issue around trust and worry. You have got the affordability of the repair, and then there is the thought, “I know that this needs doing, but how on earth do I go about it? How do I get an affordable and good job?”
32.In addition, older home owners and tenants may need to make adaptations to their mainstream homes: 27% of older people have some form of adaptation installed. Adaptations may be small, such as adding grab rails, or more substantial, such as installing a wet room or a stairlift. One contributor to our web forum said that various adaptations to her mother’s home, “grab rails, walking aids, rise and recline chair, commode, wet room, hospital bed and electric moving mattress”, meant that she was able to continue living in familiar surroundings with Alzheimer’s disease. The Disabled Facilities Grant, which we consider at paragraphs 40 to 45, funds adaptations for those who are eligible.
33.Given the evidence discussed in chapter three on the link between housing and health, we now consider what needs to happen to ensure those who stay put have access to help to keep their homes comfortable, healthy and safe. Reflecting the evidence received, this section focuses on the situation for older owner occupiers (we consider the role of registered social landlords in paragraphs 89 to 90). Foundations, the national body for Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs), explained that HIAs helped older people to “stay safe, secure and warm and retain independence in their own home”, through the provision of a range of services, including adaptations, energy efficiency measures and handypersons services. Claudia Wood of Demos said:
The handyperson idea is very important [ … ] A lot of older people just need their lightbulbs changed. When you are in your 70s, you cannot climb up a ladder to change your lightbulb, so you end up sitting in the dark. Then there is the risk of falls and you break your hip, and onwards and upwards. Some of that low level stuff is very cheap.
We heard about the popularity of handyperson services among older people and that, by helping people to make improvements and repairs to their home, they allowed them to feel “independent and in control”.
34.However, HIAs can also help older people to make their home safe, performing safety and falls risk checks and removing hazards where needed and facilitating hospital discharge. Care and Repair said that it cost, on average, £756 to remove a Category 1 falls hazard and £4,344 to remove an excess cold hazard. However, as discussed above, the cost of falls and cold to an older person’s health and wellbeing are much greater, as are the costs to the health and social care service of treating the consequences. Therefore, the evidence from the Elders Council of Newcastle that these services had “suffered in the last few years” concerned us. A contributor to our forum said that his local scheme, which had been excellent, had been disbanded. Sue Adams of Care and Repair also believed that there had been a “contraction” in these services with the result that their “focus is on adaptation and what is disappearing is people to turn to with help for repairs”. We believe that this is a false economy. Home Improvement Agencies and handyperson services are good value for money, contributing to keeping older people healthy, safe and independent at home. The Government should make additional funding available for the expansion of Home Improvement Agencies so that there is at least access in each local authority area to one agency which operates a full range of services, including a handyperson service.
35.Many people will approach a local private trader for help with repairs, maintenance and adaptations, and this is increasingly likely to be the case in the context of the reduced availability of handyperson services. In the case of home adaptations, Claudia Wood of Demos said:
A lot of older people do not necessarily know about the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG), are not eligible for the DFG or do not want to go through the paperwork and then a year’s wait. They will go and buy their own and get someone in to do the work [ … ] There are registers and organisations that promote safe handymen, rather than whoever just coming off the street.
However, we are mindful of the evidence cited earlier that older people can find securing a tradesperson they trust particularly worrisome. A contributor to the web forum said he valued the fact that his local scheme vetted their handypeople having had to deal with a rogue tradesman in the past. Current schemes which check and endorse tradespeople, such as the Government endorsed scheme, ‘TrustMark’, should consider developing a specific accreditation for traders who have been reviewed by older people or their relatives and proven to be trusted. Once accredited, the trader would be permitted to display the branding used by the national advice line and linked organisations alongside their own logo.
36.Councils administer the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) and may also provide some financial assistance for home repairs, improvement and adaptations, and housing associations carry out repairs and adaptations work on their own stock. We were interested to hear about the potential for lower income older owner occupiers to use equity release for funding repairs, adaptations and maintenance. The Equity Release Council (ERC) said that it can play a “crucial role in enabling older people to remain in their own homes”, citing analysis by insurers LV= which found that 31% of equity release products taken out in 2016 were used to fund home improvements. John Galvin of the Elderly Accommodation Council confirmed this:
Something that we see a lot of [ … ] is people who want to stay living where they are, need or want major adaptations, find that either a Disabled Facilities Grant is not available to them, or processing it could take a long time. They accept that they are going to have to pay themselves, but do not have the ready cash. Equity release is a way of doing that.
John Godfrey, Corporate Affairs Director at Legal and General, gave us the following example of how his organisation, in partnership with a not-for-profit organisation, had helped someone in this way:
We had a gentleman who lives in Islington, Mr B; I will not give you his name. He is in his 70s, suffers from autism, and was living in a property in absolute squalor, basically. The place was falling down around him, and he was living in a corridor, the other rooms all having become uninhabitable. The approach for him was clearly not to try to sell it, because the property was worth about £350,000 at the outset, such was the state of it, but, as he owned the house, to take out some of his equity and use the equity to refurbish the house, which is now valued at about £600,000. He lives in it, it is habitable, and he no longer faces a binary decision of being placed in residential care by social services, who of course, cannot step in and refurbish his house for him at a cost of £150,000.
37.The British Property Federation said that, while there had been “reputational concerns” and “a lack of consumer protection” around equity release in the past, ERC and Financial Conduct Authority regulation have helped to “provide assurances to consumers that they are entering into a fair contract”. Indeed, products offered by members of the ERC contain protections, including a ‘no negative equity guarantee’ and the right to remain in the home until the end of the customer’s life or their move into long-term care.
38.However, Mark Bogard, Chief Executive of the Family Building Society, said that “a normal mortgage can be a much more suitable product” for some older people but, because of the separation in the market between normal and lifetime mortgages, it was not usually possible to get advice on both products from one advisor. Paul Smee, Head of Mortgages at UK Finance, said that he believed there was a “challenge for the industry” to make obtaining advice as “seamless as possible”.
39.Equity release and re-mortgaging are possible routes for older owner occupiers to fund large repairs or adaptations to their homes. Mortgage providers and members of UK Finance and the Equity Release Council should work to ensure these products are tailored to the needs of older people. We make a specific recommendation on the provision of joined up advice on equity release and mortgages in paragraph 60.
40.Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) are means-tested grants available to disabled people who need to adapt their home to enable them to live there independently, for example installing a stairlift or creating a downstairs bathroom. Older people over 60 are the main recipients of the DFG, receiving 71% of the grants made. In 2014, the DFG was channelled into the Better Care Fund in line with its aims of joining up services to reduce hospital and care home admissions and enabling people to return from hospital more quickly. In recognition of the rising need for adaptations, the Government provided a welcome increase in funding for the DFG in the 2015 Spending Review to £500 million by 2019–20 and provided an additional £42 million in 2017–18 in the Autumn Budget 2017.
41.Our predecessor Committee considered the operation of the DFG in its inquiry on adult social care, concluding that it was “slow and cumbersome”, so we were interested to return to the issue. Once again, we heard that it was a “clunky process” and that waiting times for implementation varied significantly between local authorities, ranging from days and weeks in some places to two or three years in others. The Local Government Association highlighted best practice in South Staffordshire where councils and third sector organisations were working together to streamline DFG applications, assessments and provision, resulting in a “a reduction in costs of 40% and huge cuts in waiting times”.
42.Our attention was also drawn to the limit of the DFG, set in 2008 to £30,000, by Jacquel Runnalls, Co-opted Lead on Accessibility and Inclusive Design at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists Specialist Section in Housing, who said:
Most adaptations that help people to remain in their own home are around £7,000. If you are looking at somebody remaining in a property that is not generally accessible, you are probably looking at adapting ground floor living. If it is a house, for example, you might ramp the front entrance, and you may have to extend the rear of the property to accommodate a bedroom and a wet room bathroom. You need to think about carers as well, so you need the space. And £30,000 does not go a long way to accommodate that.
Ms Runnalls also highlighted the fact that, under The Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England and Wales) Order 2002, local authorities may use the DFG in a “flexible, preventative way”, and she listed the possible uses: “delayed discharge and step-down flats, but particularly handypersons, repair schemes and fuel poverty and energy efficiency initiatives. Some look at relocation grants”. However, she also cited research by Foundations, which leads on the improvement of DFG delivery in England, that only 47% of local authorities have a policy to use the DFG in this way.
43.Based on the evidence it had heard, our predecessor committee recommended that the then DCLG should review the operation of the DFG. We were therefore very pleased that the then Housing Minister, Alok Sharma, announced before the Committee that a review of the DFG would take place shortly and would look at “criteria, eligibility and how funding is made available to local authorities”. The DFG has a very important role to play in making older people’s homes accessible and enabling them to maintain their independence. We welcome the Department’s commitment to review the operation of the DFG and recommend the review should also look specifically at:
44.One concern which was raised with us was the difficulties that private rented sector tenants have in securing adaptations from their landlord. In 2015–16, 17% of people over the age of 55 lived in private rented housing. An Age Friendly Borough consultation run by Southwark Council revealed that many landlords were reluctant to allow adaptations because of the negative impact on the value of the property. The then DCLG’s Adaptations and Accessibility Report 2014–15 confirms this: of the 45% of households that lacked one or more of their required adaptations, 10% did not have them because their landlord would not pay for them and 5% said that their landlord would not allow them. Julia Park, Head of Housing Policy at Levitt Bernstein, pointed out that this problem was likely to increase as the numbers of older people privately renting are growing. Indeed, Generation Rent said that, between 2005–06 and 2015–16, the number of households privately renting in the 45–54 and 55–64 age groups increased from 403,000 to 1,114,000.
45.Private renting is an increasingly important housing option for older people and they should feel confident in being able to adapt their home to meet their needs. We recommend that the review of the DFG should consider how to ensure that older tenants in the private rented sector secure the adaptations they need. In particular, it should consider the case for allocating government funding to local authorities to make discretionary payments to landlords for the costs of reinstatement or removal of the adaptation once the tenancy has ended.
46.Furthermore, we heard that, in terms of the condition of the home, the “worst housing” was in this sector. The 2015–16 English Housing Survey found that the private rented sector had the highest proportion of non-decent homes at 28%, and Gill Moy, Director of Nottingham City Homes, said that a stock survey had shown that 21% of the privately rented stock in Nottingham had a category 1 hazard. Age UK said that large parts of the sector were “certainly inadequate for older people”. The health consequences of poor housing are serious. We will be considering the quality of homes in the private rented sector in more detail in our separate ongoing inquiry on the subject. We also note Karen Buck MP’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill 2017–19, currently before the House, which seeks to require that residential rented dwellings in England are fit for human habitation at the start of the tenancy and thereafter.
56 JRF, , May 2012
57 Centre for Ageing Better [HOP 046]
58 Foundations 
61 Care and Repair, , March 2016
63 Foundations 
64 Foundations 
67 Care and Repair 
68 Elders Council of Newcastle 
71 Equity Release Council 
74 British Property Federation 
75 Equity Release Council 
79 Foundations, , June 2016
80 HM Treasury, , November 2015
81 HM Treasury, , November 2017
82 Communities and Local Government Committee, , March 2017
85 Local Government Association 
89 DCLG, , March 2017
90 Southwark Council 
91 DCLG, , July 2016
92 Generation Rent 
95 Age UK 
8 February 2018