More than two million people living in homes that endanger their health, report finds

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Over two million people over the age of 55 are living in a home that endangers their health or wellbeing, according to a new report.

The report into non-decent housing in 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 research, conducted by the Centre for Ageing Better and Care & Repair England, shows that households headed by someone over 75 are disproportionately likely to be living in a non-decent home, and the problem has worsened for this age group.

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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. Two million households headed by someone over 65 find it difficult to heat their home.

The findings mean that older people are making unnecessary trips to hospital and piling more pressure on health and social care. The NHS spends an estimated £513 million on first-year treatment costs alone for over 55s living in the poorest housing, according to the Centre for Ageing Better.

One of the major causes of death and injury amongst older people are falls in the home, while cold homes exacerbate a range of health problems including arthritis, COPD, and asthma, and increase the risk of an acute episode like a stroke or heart attack.

According to a report published by the Office of National Statistics last year, more than 5,000 older people died because of a fall in 2017 compared to 4,856 in 2015, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Although the average cost to repair these homes is estimated to be below £3,000, there are no specific policies in place to address non-decency, and previously available funding for low-income homeowners to maintain or repair their homes has been withdrawn.

The Centre for Ageing Better and Care & Repair England are calling on the new government to place this issue at the top of their agenda and invest £4.3 billion to address the housing crisis.

The people and places most at risk must, they say, be the focus of government housing policy. 

Anna Dixon, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “An investment of £4.3 billion 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. 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, said: “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.”

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Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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