The history of Care & Repair in Wales began in the late 1970s. Concern about the circumstances of older people led to the early research about housing for older people. Successive studies and house conditions across the UK pointed to older people occupying disproportionately poor housing. Home Improvement Agencies (Care & Repair) developed in the UK in response to the growing awareness of problems faced by older homeowners living in housing that was statutorily unfit for habitation, lacking basic bathroom and kitchen amenities, damp, in serious disrepair, unhealthy and sometimes dangerous.
Fast forward to today and Care & Repair Cymru is now the ‘Older People’s Housing Champion’, supporting older people through not only housing repairs, but also many other valuable services such as benefits advice, housing adaptations, falls prevention, energy efficiency and affordable warmth. In 2013-14 alone the Care & Repair movement in Wales helped over 40,000 people through various interventions, helping older people to live in homes that enhance their quality of life.
In addition to on-the-ground support and individual help, Care & Repair Cymru also works to influence national policy and thinking; for example, appearing before Welsh Government Committees and UK Government Inquiries and advising on housing’s contribution to social care challenges, championing older people from grass roots to the very highest level.
Care & Repair Cymru has long recognised that to truly meet the needs of the older people they support, they need to look outside of traditional funding solutions and cannot rely on public sector funding alone. As with many third sector organisations, this has become particularly relevant in recent years following the credit crunch as budgets have been contracted with numbers of individuals needing vital services ever growing.
What has been particularly important to Care & Repair Cymru is that their Caseworkers are empowered to be able to help those that they look after in as many ways as possible. The last thing that a Caseworker or Care & Repair Cymru would ever want would be to be approached by an older person in need and not be able to help in any way. As part of increasing the number of options that Caseworkers have available to them, Care & Repair Cymru has made innovative partnerships with a number of organisations that can help them offer more options to those that they look after. One of these partnerships has been with social enterprise advant~age.
advant~age is a national organisation that enables charities to help vulnerable people, their families and carers, and supporters obtain access to safe and reputable products and services, whilst at the same time generating valuable unrestricted income for the charity and minimising reputational risk. One of the services that advant~age offers through its partner Bower Retirement Services is equity release advice. The role of advant~age includes performing rigorous due diligence and quality control on the providers of the services that it offers. This then ensures that customers can then be confident they will receive a high quality service at a fair price and charities can feel confident in signposting to providers, knowing that their reputations are protected. This was of particular importance to Care & Repair Cymru. With grants for repairs and adaptations shrinking, equity release advice can be an option that older people may want to consider as a way of funding works on their homes. As a member of the Equity Release Council and registered with the Financial Conduct Authority, Bower Retirement Services can offer safe and reputable, independent whole of market advice to individuals that may want to find out more about the options that are available to them.
Equity release isn’t the answer to everything, but by being able to signpost to reputable advice Care & Repair Cymru can increase the number of options that are available to those that they look after. For individuals that can mean access to funding to repair their homes and enable them to live more independently for longer, for Caseworkers it means that they can offer more solutions to more people more of the time. In addition to increasing the services available for any equity release services that are completed, a donation is made to the Care & Repair Cymru hardship fund, at no extra cost to the individual, enabling Care & Repair Cymru to deliver even more vital services in the communities it supports.
Care & Repair Cymru, advant~age and Bower Retirement Services believe that this type of cross-sector partnership will have a key role in the future provision of services to older people where traditional options are reducing or even disappearing. It is fantastic to see such a variety of organisations working together to develop and build services in partnership to provide solutions to the challenges that are being faced by individuals, third and public sectors alike.
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Heather Dungey, Care & Repair Cymru
Jenni Buckland, advant-age
Ian Howarth, Bower