Over two million over-55s are living in a home that endangers their health and wellbeing, an alarming new report has revealed.
The study, published by the Centre for Ageing Better and Care & Repair England, found that over 4.3 million homes in England don’t meet basic standards of decency most commonly because of the presence of a serious hazard to their occupants’ health or safety.
The households headed by someone over 75 are disproportionately likely to be living in a non-decent home, according to the study. Two million households headed by someone over 65 find it difficult to heat their home.
The largest number of non-decent homes is among owner-occupiers, the report found, with many facing financial or practical barriers to maintaining their home.
Around 20% of all homes in the private rented sector are non-decent.
‘Our report today shows the shocking scale of non-decent housing across England, with too many people in later life unable to afford or manage the vital repairs and maintenance their homes need. The result is millions of people living in conditions that put their health or safety at risk - it’s a national scandal,’ said Anna Dixon, chief executive at the Centre for Ageing Better.
‘But our report also shows that this situation is far from inevitable. The average cost to bring a non-decent home up to a decent standard is estimated to be under £3,000, and a third of these homes could be repaired for less than £1,000. And yet the funding that used to be dedicated to addressing this issue has been withdrawn in recent years.’
According to the report, the NHS spends an estimated £513m on first-year treatment costs alone for over 55s living in the poorest housing.
‘An investment of £4.3bn to repair hazards for households over 55 would be paid back in just eight years through savings to the NHS – not to mention the difference this would make to millions of people’s quality of life,’ said Ms Dixon.
‘Ensuring that everyone is able to live in a safe, decent home now and in the future must be central to the government’s housing policy.’
Sue Adams, chief executive at Care & Repair England, commented: ‘Older people across the country tell us how important their homes are to their health and quality of life. Concerted action to make those homes safe, warm, decent places to live is a win-win solution.
‘Everyone gains – the NHS cuts costs, the national housing stock is protected and individuals have improved lives.’ Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England, said: ‘A safe, accessible and warm home helps to enable our participation in society, providing a stable and safe environment for us to flourish.
‘In contrast, a cold, hazardous home is a serious risk to a person’s health and can cause or worsen a large number of health conditions such as arthritis, respiratory or mental health illness, as well as increasing the risk of a stroke or heart attack.
‘The implications are wide-ranging: from life-changing and potentially fatal consequences for the people living in these conditions to ongoing, avoidable demand on the NHS and other public services.’