Tracey is delighted by Friday’s annoucemet by Housing Minister Brandon Lewis that older people will receive support to stay independent for longer thanks to a £1 million investment in housing advice services.
The £1 million funding for FirstStop next year builds on more than £3 million already invested by the Government since 2011 – this means they can continue offering a support and advice service that gives older people a helping hand to stay independent and make choices about where and how they live in later life.
FirstStop works with partners such as Age UK, local councils and home improvement agencies in 15 areas across England, to provide tailored advice and practical support for older people who may be struggling to cope in their own homes but remain determined to keep living independently.
Speaking from the home of Mr and Mrs Jackson who benefited from using the FirstStop local partner, Age UK Norfolk, Mr Lewis congratulated FirstStop on its strong track record of reaching around 250,000 people via its online, phone and face-to-face service each year.
Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis said: ‘This government is committed to giving people more choice about where they live. As people get older it is vital that they still have choices which allow them to enjoy healthy, independent and active lives. Ensuring the right information is available to enable older people and their families make those choices is crucial. As we grow older we may not just need to change how we live, we might also need to change the homes we live in. For some older people, this can be an overwhelming prospect, so the free information and advice and practical support provided by FirstStop is invaluable.’
The £1 million funding for 2015 to 2016 will mean FirstStop can continue delivering its national phone, email and online service to around 250,000 people, helping more older people make informed decisions about how and where they live as they age. It will also enable FirstStop to deliver a minimum of 15 local partner services for a further year, extending their current reach and building on the successes of the last 12 months.
The Jacksons were referred to Age UK Norfolk’s Housing and Care Options Services following a phone call to the Age UK Norfolk Advice Line.
The Housing and Care Options Adviser supported the couple through the application process for sheltered housing, ensured they were claiming all appropriate benefits and entitlements, assisted the moving in process with the Housing Association and visited to check the couple had everything they needed in place.
Yvonne Costin, Age UK Norfolk Housing and Care Options Adviser, said: ‘The Housing and Care Options Service is an essential service. In the past 15 months I have helped hundreds of older people with housing issues, many of which have been very complex. Unsuitable housing is a real problem in Norfolk and what on the surface could appear to be straightforward matters are not simple to resolve if you are suffering from ill health or are living below the poverty line.’
With the number of over 80s set to double to 5 million by 2030 the government is meeting this need and has supported those looking to remain in their own home as well of those considering a move. Initiatives supporting older people include:
- the £1 billion Disabled Facilities Grant to fund adaptations to homes
- Funding Foundations, the national body for home improvement agencies which provide minor repairs and services for around 250,000 older and disabled people each year
- the planning system reforms in the National Planning Policy Framework directs local authorities to plan for a mix of housing based on current and future demographic trends, and the needs of different groups in the area, including older people
Tracey said ‘ As someone who has campaigned continually for better support for older people to allow them to remain in their own homes for longer, I am thrilled that this funding will be continued for next year. We so often talk about the benefits to wellbeing and quality of life for older people who are able to reamin in their own homes so it is great to see this Government providing the finance to make this a reality. With a little extra support, many older people are able to remain in their homes and their communities, keeping their independence while avoiding high care costs. This funding is an investment and a very welcome one at that!’