Lives at risk because of the dilapidated state of older people’s housing

Older people in Wales are facing a housing crisis: Care & Repair Cymru’s new report looks at the challenges, causes and solutions to a threat targeting our oldest homeowners.

According to The State of Older People’s Housing in Wales report, from Care & Repair Cymru, thousands of vulnerable older adults are at risk of ill health and hospitalisation because of the condition of their home.

Over 56,000 low-income older people needed urgent and essential repairs and adaptations to their home in 2022, and it is predicted that figure will rise this year. As Wales has some of the oldest housing stock in Western Europe, with 26% of housing being built before 1919, repairs and adaptations are vital and ensure safety at home.

Chris Jones, Care & Repair Cymru Chief Executive, said: “Our new report shows that older people’s housing in Wales is in desperate need of further investment. The cost-of-living crisis, the global pandemic and UK political uncertainty has caused a perfect storm that has led to a decline in housing conditions in the homes of our older generations.

“Our caseworkers are finding that client’s housing and health needs are more complex than ever before. This naturally means that the solutions are more complex, but with the cost of materials rising, fewer reliable contractors available, and a lack of funding to support those on low incomes, arranging repairs is a growing challenge.”

A Perfect Storm

Using evidence gathered from over 22,000 older people in Wales, and the home visits Care & Repair undertakes for each, a worrying picture of the state of housing is revealed.

Lockdowns, fear of COVID-19 and now a cost-of-living crisis has resulted in significantly increased amounts of disrepair as older homeowners continue to put off works. As problems intensify, urgent and essential repairs become more significant, complexity and cost of works grows and the health impacts of poor, damp housing on occupiers are exacerbated.

Cost pressures within the construction industry has also made repairs more expensive. The prices of materials and labour have skyrocketed, there is a significant shortage of skilled contractors being trained and entering the workforce, and as a result there are procurement challenges in terms of timescales and finding sufficient funding to get essential works done. This all means that the number of older people organisations like Care & Repair can help, has reduced as complexity of need increases and average costs of works escalate.

Safety net needed

Care & Repair Cymru believes that the introduction of a safety net housing disrepair grant, for lowest-income older homeowners, would solve many of the issues, make older people’s homes safe and habitable and move thousands of vulnerable older adults out of harm’s way. This would in turn lead to better health and well-being, reduce hospital admissions and visits to the GP and help reduce pressures on the NHS.

Becky Ricketts, Care & Repair Cymru Policy Officer and author of report said: “We do not believe that older people should live in a hazardous home or live without dignity due to being on low income. That’s why a national safety net grant programme is needed. It would give vulnerable older homeowners access to urgent and essential repairs.”

You can download the report here:

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