Good quality, impartial information and advice plays a critical role in enabling older people to make informed decisions about their later life housing and care. A recently published joint report from the leading organisations concerned with the provision of housing, care and related financial information and advice for older people, Making the Case (http://careandrepair-england.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Making-the-Case-final.pdf) set out the arguments for such services.
People are faced with significant life transitions at many points in their lives, and never more so than in older age. Retirement, loss of a lifelong partner, or declining health raise issues and questions about living arrangements and related finance. Many older people faced with such circumstances may have difficulty in finding trustworthy sources of information and advice, particularly about housing and care, in an increasingly crowded market place. Above all what people need is information and advice which will aid decision-making and enable them to take action which will help to eliminate anxiety and enable them to continue living safely and well in their own home.
“I didn’t have a clue where to start but [the adviser] was very helpful and professional. She made me feel very comfortable and gave me the confidence and guidance I needed to proceed….. I feel very positive about the future.” (emphasis added)
It is this need which FirstStop meets. During 2013-15 DCLG funded 15 local agencies working in partnership with EAC FirstStop (http://www.firststopcareadvice.org.uk/) to provide accessible person-centred information and advice to older people about housing, care and related finance. The funding was dependent on achieving ambitious targets in terms of the number of people provided with information and advice, with local services being required to provide regular monitoring returns to evidence their work.
The results are impressive, demonstrating the impact of such services on supporting independent decision-making in later life. Over 30,000 older people were provided with information and advice over the 18 month funding period, of whom 20% were given one to one advice and almost 2,700 (over 8%) were provided with more in-depth support. Of those people receiving this casework service, almost two thirds (65%) lived on their own, over half (51%) were aged 75 or over and 80% had a long-term health condition or disability.
As a result of the advice and support received from the FirstStop local partner, over half (51%) were able to continue living safely and well in their own home, with a further 29% making the decision to move to accommodation better suited to their needs (including almost 100 ‘down-sizing’). Improved well being, a guiding principle of the Care Act 2014, was reported as an outcome in over half the cases, including 27% whose ability to continue living independently had been enhanced.
An infographic with the results from the monitoring data collected between October 2013 and March 2015 can be found here.
The impact of such services is reflected in feedback from service users:
“As a family we have found the advice and support provided by [the adviser] to be exemplary. It has helped us to cope and find safe and secure accommodation at a very difficult and stressful time. We have now settled happily in our new home. Many thanks for everything you have done to help us.”
“I will forever be grateful for the assistance of the housing options service which has resulted in a transformation of my life from being isolated in a house which was too big and unmanageable. Now I have friends around me and I feel safe and secure.”
It is also reflected in the independent evaluation of the local services carried out by the Cambridge Centre for Housing & Planning and Research (CCHPR):
‘A range of positive outcomes have been achieved including continued independent living, higher incomes, reduced isolation, access to housing equity and a better quality of life.’ Dr Gemma Burgess, FirstStop local partners: costs and potential savings to public budgets of client casework 2014 Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research (CCHPR)
Details of the independent evaluations of the FirstStop services completed by CCHPR can be found at http://www.firststopcareadvice.org.uk/resources-partners/independent-evaluation.aspx
FirstStop local partnerships 2015-16
DCLG has endorsed the value of such services and has committed funding for a further year (April 2015 – March 2016). The funding will support 16 FirstStop local partners in 2015-16, building on the success of previous funding programmes, and enabling more older people to continue to live safely and well at home. A key aspect of the continued financial support from DCLG is to enable effective local services to embed, consolidate and develop locally.
The DCLG-funded housing and care options advice services are managed by a range of agencies including local Age UKs, home improvement agencies and local authorities. They form part of a growing network of local housing and care options advice services. Details of FirstStop’s local partners, including those currently funded by DCLG, can be found here.The funding programme is managed by Care & Repair England (http://careandrepair-england.org.uk/) working in partnership with EAC FirstStop.
For further information about EAC FirstStop contact John Galvin, Chief Executive, EAC T 020 7820 3755 E mail John.firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information about the Local Partnerships Programme contact Dave Eldridge, Local Partnerships Programme Manager T 020 3519 6038