Proving the value of housing for older people

We all know that the sector often struggles to prove the value of housing for older people, especially retirement housing, independent living, or whatever we call it (including sheltered housing – aahh!).

Every time the funding of the supported housing is threatened there is a flurry of efforts to show how the housing and services meet the needs of residents and save money for the public purse. However, these have struggled to really hit home. There have been some really good studies such as the Extra Care Charitable Trust working with Aston and Lancaster Universities which showed, for example, their villages reduced unplanned hospital stays from 8-14 to 1-2 days and led to a 46% reduction in routine and regular GP visits. Anchor worked with Sonnet Impact to show the social value of a retirement housing tenancy was £6,200 per annum while the value of an extra care tenancy was £12,900. How can we make such good news readily understood and accepted by potential partners?

The recent White Paper on the future of adult social care opens the door to highlight the benefits of and to deliver good quality housing and personalised services. If every decision on care is to be a decision on housing, then specialist housing must be part of the menu of solutions.

I sometimes wonder what services would look like if they routinely reported on measures that are important to health and social care such as falls, unplanned hospital admissions, those still at home after hospital discharge and the early diagnosis of dementia. We know specialist housing makes a difference but if it became common knowledge that residents in such housing have 20% fewer falls that the older population as a whole, it would be so much more powerful. If the government delivers its commitment to provide additional funding for supported housing, this could be targeted towards schemes that have the greatest impact on these measures. Extra funding could allow the development of additional services to improve these outcomes. In this way, the sector really would prove its worth to the public purse and the government could directly measure the pay back on its investment.

This could be a way forward. However, my experience shows that when you ask residents what is important to them, they don’t highlight falls prevention or hospital admissions. They are more likely to talk about the repairs service, the quality of their homes or their relationship with local staff.

It must be possible to square off what could be competing demands. For example, well designed and maintained homes will be attractive to potential residents but they will also reduce the risk of falls. The outcomes important to residents and to public services must be part of the debate as the consumer regulation standards are updated and, hopefully, government thinks how it can support the delivery of more specialist housing for older people and maximises the benefits of the existing provision.

There appears to have been some reluctance to align retirement housing and services with commissioners after the demise of Supporting People funding. However, this may be the way we need to go if we are to prove the great preventative impact and attract the much needed revenue funding.


Nick Sedgwick

Nick is an ARK Consultant with a breath of experience working across local authorities, housing associations and non-departmental public bodies. Nick’s key areas of expertise lies in Housing management, homelessness and care & support

Nick also has experience in the full range of local authority housing responsibilities which include asset management and housing development. Nick is passionate about working in partnership to co-create solutions to improve the quality of life of residents.