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Ministers Jim Daly and Damien English launch policy statement:“Housing Options for our Ageing Population”

Mr Jim Daly TD, Minister for Mental Health and Older People with Mr Damien English TD, Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal together today (27 February 2019) launched the Joint Policy Statement “Housing Options for our Ageing Population” The Statement reaffirms the strong Government commitment to policies that support older people to live in their own homes and communities with dignity and independence for as long as possible. Both Ministers welcomed the publication. Minister Daly said “ The changing demographics and the implications for future health care costs mean it is vital that a wider choice of appropriate housing options for older people is developed.   The needs, rights and expectations of our older citizens are different today than they were in the past, and I have no doubt will continue to change. It is vital therefore that we put in place suitable options to give older people more choice and to ensure that care is provided in the most appropriate setting.This is an important step in supporting older people to start thinking about, and planning for, their housing needs as they age and to future proofing Ireland so that we have a sustainable range of housing options to meet the needs of our rising ageing population.” Minister English stated his belief that the Statement “would make an invaluable contribution in helping to meet the demographic challenge we as a nation face in respect of the housing needs for our increasingly older population”. The Minister was keen to emphasise that the Policy Statement was about increasing the options available to people as they grow older. It was he continued “fundamentally about creating more choice in the housing options available to them and recognising the intimate connection between healthcare supports and housing as we age”.  

The Statement sets out a framework by which the Government aims to create a much wider spectrum of options and choices for older people in Ireland. The over-arching aim being to ensure that people can grow old and live in a community of their choosing, with dignity and independence.

The Steering Group that helped put the Statement together- made up of key stakeholders in Government and from across the sector- has developed a number of key principles that will underpin Government policy on housing for older people and on which the policy framework was constructed. These include:

  •      Putting in place measures to ensure that sustainable housing is provided in the right location to enable people to age in the community;
  •      Designing housing and the environment in accordance with the principles of sustainable lifetime housing;
  •      Promoting the use of assistive technology to support people to live independently;
  •      Ensuring there is adequate consideration to the need for social connectedness in devising policy; and
  •      Working collaboratively with all stakeholders to achieve the policy objectives.

These principles will inform our strategic thinking in the years ahead. However, I am pleased to say that they have already led to the development of a number of creative and innovative actions that are in this Statement” noted Minister English.

There are 40 Action points in the Plan. Key initiatives include

  •      Meeting the 2018 Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing recommendations on older people housing including reviewing and adding funding to the Housing Adaptation Grant Scheme. Ø        Specific schemes to assist people wishing to rightsize in both social and private housing Ø        New funding mechanisms (as part of the overall budgetary process) to assist in generating private sector involvement in the provision of older people housing Ø        A high level blueprint for Co-Operatives, Approved Housing Bodies (AHB’s) and developers that will include guidance on the funding mechanisms available to deliver older people specific developments, advice on how to engage with the planning process and Design Templates for the purpose of constructing new older person housing developments or refurbishing existing facilities; Ø        Funding innovative approaches to developing new housing options for older people including home sharing and house-splitting Ø        Developing an (optional) Design for Life rating mechanism for homes that will measure the energy-efficiency and age-friendliness of homes to enable them to be truly sustainable. Ø        Developing and delivering key actions identified under the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy, particularly in relation to expansion of community-based care to bring it closer to home, aimed at keeping older people healthy and independent for longer. Ø        Promoting the use of Support Coordination Services to ensure that a collective approach to the provision of services at local level. This will include mapping and signposting of all local services such as home supports, meals on wheels, transport, befriending, health and wellbeing services, training and education, and technology supports. Ø        Utilising the expanded Community Intervention Team and Outpatient Parenteral Antimicrobial Therapy Services to prevent unnecessary hospital admission, promote hospital avoidance and facilitate early discharge of patients to their home with the appropriate range of supports. Ø        Developing a statutory scheme and system of regulation for Home Support Services with clear rules in relation to services for which people are eligible and that will improve access to the services people need.  Consider how home supports in supported housing models could be incorporated into the scheme. Ø        Evaluating the Warmth and Wellbeing Scheme currently being piloted by Department of Health Healthy Ireland Initiative, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the Sustainable Energy Authority and the HSE with a view to expansion. Ø        Reviewing the housing allocation model to support the development of any specific future housing schemes for older people and ensure that a partnership approach is adopted between the HSE and the relevant local authority to identify the most suitable residents.

Minister Daly concluded “The publication of this Statement is just the start. We plan to build on the excellent collaboration between the two Departments and key stakeholders and ensure that we deliver on the promises we are making here today”. To that end both Ministers committed to establishing within weeks an Interdepartmental/agency Implementation Group led by an independent chair that would monitor progress and report directly to both Ministers.

Notes to Editor The Policy Statement has been developed jointly by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and the Department of Health, with support from a Steering Group, comprising both Departments, the Health Service Executive, the Housing Agency, the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, Age Friendly Ireland and other key stakeholders, who provided expertise and guidance.

The purpose of this Statement is to provide a policy framework, underpinned by and aligned with the six principles developed, to support our ageing population in a way that will increase the accommodation options available to them and give them meaningful choice in how and where they choose to live.  

The principles on which the Policy Statement is built are around include:

•        Ageing in Place;

•        Supporting Urban Renewal;

•        Promoting Sustainable Lifetime Housing;

•        Using Assistive Technology;

•        Staying Socially Connected; and

•        Working Together.  

The Policy Statement was developed in consultation with all stakeholders, including the range of voluntary groups and NGO’S that provide services and supports to older people. A conference was held in Farmleigh last November to support the development of the document and a further consultation event was held, with a view to ensuring that any concerns and recommendations of stakeholders were reflected in the document, where at all possible.   This was followed by a call for submissions in December 2018 and a further consultation event earlier this month. This Statement identifies a programme of strategic actions to further progress housing options for older people under the themes of data gathering, collaborative working, delivering choice, support services, comfort and safety and maintaining momentum.  The programme of actions (40 in total), which require significant inter-departmental and agency working and collaboration, will inform future policy development in this area. An Interdepartmental/agency Implementation Group, with an independent Chair will be established shortly to progress the programme of actions.  The Chair will report to the Ministers on progress and issues arising. 

Notes to the Editor: Policy Statement: Housing Options for Our Ageing Population