Carl Sargeant, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children
In December 2015, the Welsh Government established an Expert Group on Housing an Ageing Population. The purpose of this time-bound Group was to develop practicable and deliverable proposals to inform the Welsh Government’s policy approach to housing an ageing population. A Written Statement was issued on 10 December 2015, announcing the Group’s membership, followed by a letter to Assembly Members in March 2016 setting out the Group’s work programme.
I am pleased to inform Assembly Members that the Group has now submitted its report, Our Housing AGEnda: meeting the aspirations of older people in Wales to me and I have published it on the Welsh Government web pages.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Judith Phillips OBE, Deputy Principal, Stirling University, for Chairing the Group. I am equally grateful to every member of the Group for stepping up to the challenge and for sharing their expertise and knowledge in the interests of informing future policy on these matters. We were fortunate to have been able to convene an excellent group able to represent a range of sectors, professions and perspectives. I am pleased that older people themselves also had an opportunity to feed into the Group’s work through its engagement activity.
Population ageing presents a number of opportunities, as well as challenges. I welcome this report which provides an expert perspective on the central role that housing needs to play in the context of the demographic change Wales will experience over the coming period. As people’s life expectancy increases, we need to do all we can to ensure that people can live healthy and fulfilled lives for as long as possible. The report highlights that this is something all of us as individuals need to think more about. The Group also draws our attention to the wider benefits the housing system in Wales will derive from concerted action to widen the housing options available to older people.
We need to ensure that our housing stock in Wales is fit for the future and this means responding not just to the needs but to the aspirations of our ageing population. This report contributes to our understanding of those needs and aspirations. It also draws attention to the range of agencies – public and private – who have a contribution to make in ensuring that the housing “offer” in Wales is enhanced.
The report addresses 5 key themes which can be broadly summarised as follows:
- Understanding the housing requirements of older people
- Supporting the right choices – to “stay put” or “move on”
- Living with confidence in older age – covering design and technology
- A planning system which reflects the needs of our ageing population
- Making housing more affordable and incentivising change
The report proposes a number of actions for Welsh Government, local authorities, housing associations as well as commercial house builders. Given the cross cutting nature of the report’s recommendations they need to be considered carefully and across government. I will now be examining the proposals in more detail and I will update Assembly Members on next steps in due course.