BROMLEY HOUSING: SUPPORTING THE VULNERABLE: Some older people regard asking for help as shameful. One person in severe difficulty refused a food voucher, saying he ‘would rather starve’ (Bromley housing strategy – Five)

Bromley has an ageing population. Many older people are living alone – in 2015, the number of people aged over 75 and living alone in the borough was estimated at over 13,500, and this is predicted to rise to 19,000 by 2030.

The report highlights the diminishing amount of housing suitable – and available – for independent older people:

We are seeing an increased number of older people with housing problems. Often older white men. They have lived happily in private rented accommodation for years but are now on a reduced income and struggling to manage, so are facing eviction.

They often have more than one mental or physical health condition, and their friends and family help with everyday tasks such as reminding them to take medication, shopping for them or providing cooked meals.

Without exception, they feel frightened by the prospect of having to leave their established networks and familiar places. Practical difficulties such as ‘having to learn new bus routes’ causes a lot of worry. Those who were born in or around the decade after WW2 were raised in difficult economic times and regard asking for help as shameful. One client in severe difficulty refused a food voucher, saying he ‘would rather starve’.

Whilst many people prefer to stay in their own homes as long as possible, some express a wish to move into more suitable accommodation. Over half the people consulted for Bromley’s Ageing Well Strategy thought that their current home would be inappropriate or need adaptations in the future.

Some older people are already living in homes which are no longer suitable for them. The homes may be too large for their needs, or unsafe for them because of poor lighting, trip hazards or some other problem. Whilst there is a reasonable supply of extra care housing, there is a diminishing amount of housing suitable – and available – for independent older people.

The report also found:

A higher proportion of households in Bromley become homeless as a result of domestic violence than elsewhere in London. Domestic violence is a cause of homelessness that needs a particularly specialist approach and support for refuges is vital.

a shortage of specialist accommodation for people with mental health issues and learning disabilities in the borough, especially younger people with special educational needs.

Young people aged 18+ and leaving care have few options in terms of housing and are particularly vulnerable if housed out of the borough, away from their support networks.

Homeless people have major health needs, increased drug, alcohol and mental health issues and are often not registered with GPs.

The process of getting adaptations carried out for people with physical disabilities using the Disabled Facilities Grant can be lengthy, and funding is subject to a national means test which takes little account of local circumstances.

WHAT BROMLEY PLAN TO DO INCLUDES:

Appoint a Domestic Violence Co-ordinator to work with the housing options team to identify support pathways for households affected by domestic abuse.

Encourage developers to include specialist homes for older people in their schemes, particularly those located in town centres.

House every child leaving care within the borough unless they have suitable support elsewhere which means an out of borough placement is better for them.

Stipulate that a number of one-bedroom properties suitable for young people leaving care are included in all the schemes that are developed on council-owned sites and will consider the needs of young people in other residential developments that are put forward for planning approval.

Develop a life skills training programme for people in temporary accommodation to help them sustain their tenancies and prepare for longer term housing.

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