Q&A: Technology has a vital role to play in housing older people

Bruce Moore, Chief Executive at Housing & Care 21, answers questions related to supported housing. 

Q. What are your views on the government’s revised funding proposals for supported housing

A. I know there are still some concerns about the certainty of funding for some short-term supported housing services, but generally, and for older people’s housing in particular, the proposed changes are good news. They remove the risk that the previous local housing allowance and top-up arrangements would have inevitably led to a loss of vital preventative services. The government has recognised that without the support and care that retirement and extra-care housing offer to many older people, there would be even greater pressures and costs for social care and health services.

Q. Will health, social care and housing ever be fully linked up?

A. Despite this having been talked about for as long as I can remember, regrettably it still seems a long way off. As we saw recently in the report Housing for Older People by the Communities and Local Government select committee, the case for integration appears obvious and compelling. But I fear there may be too many vested interests and perverse incentives that prevent this from occurring. The health service is still too focused on medicines and mortality. Rather than spending vast sums to just keep people alive and treating the symptoms of multiple conditions, surely it would be better to put more emphasis on helping people live longer, healthy lives? This is why good housing is essential.   Now that social care and health are represented in the same government department, maybe they will become more joined up? But rather than wait, Housing & Care 21 intends to press ahead with new developments by engaging with social service authorities and providing them with 100% nomination rights.

Q. How will technology influence the provision of care and support for older people?

A. Technology can have a positive impact but it can also disrupt existing models of service and provision. We need to question ‘why’ we do something and not get caught up in just repeating the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of current ways of working. One of my frustrations has been the reliance on ‘red string’ and analogue emergency call systems which left our service offer in the dark ages – 90-second connection delays, limited line capacity and one-way speech. I am pleased that Appello has now introduced a genuine digital offer that we have installed in 70 sites, but this is just the start. We still need to do much more to catch up with the technological revolution and the potential this provides to allow people to exercise more choice and control over their lives and the services they receive.

Q. What’s next for your services and the care and support sector?

A. The best way to prepare for the future is to question everything, but also learn lessons from the past. I don’t know exactly what the future will bring but I am optimistic that if we are guided by our clarity of purpose to provide contemporary and quality services for older people of modest means, we will ultimately be able to find a way to overcome any challenges and take advantage of opportunities.

To discuss the issues raised in this article, contact Liz Zacharias: liz.zacharias@campbelltickell.com