Research by the Building Research Establishment on behalf of the Centre for Ageing Better finds that investment in home improvements could help save public sector services billions per year

Investing in remedial work to fix the worst quality homes in England could deliver savings of more than £1.5bn per year for NHS and social care budgets, new research has found.


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Excess cold is the most common category one hazards in homes where over 55s live, and fixing the issue would solve the NHS £325m a year. 

Research from the Centre for Ageing Better has indicated that unsafe homes headed by someone aged over 55 are costing the NHS £595m in treatment costs for injuries or illness linked to poor-quality housing.

According to the Building Research Establishment’s research on behalf of the charity, the most common category one hazard for older people’s homes is excess cold.

Category one hazards are those that pose the most severe risk to the health and safety of occupants and include structural deficiencies such as collapsing roofs and environmental concerns, such as damp and mould. Resolving excess cold in every home where the head is over 55 would result in savings to the NHS of £325m per year.

In addition, if hazards, damp and cold were eradicated from homes lived in by people aged 50 and over, it would save £1.1 billion in formal care costs per year by 2027 according to analysis by academics at the London School of Economics (LSE).

The savings from removing health hazards would increase over time, to £2.8bn a year by 2042.

The new LSE analysis also indicates the potential for a further £3.5 billion annual savings in unpaid care costs for older people if the nation’s poor-quality housing crisis was resolved.

Similarly, the cost savings in the level of unpaid care required would increase from £3.5bn a year in 2027 to £7.1bn a year by 2042.

Formal care costs refer to the expenses associated with adult social care services provided to individuals who require assistance with daily activities, such as eating, dressing, and shopping, while unpaid care refers to care provided by family members, neighbours or friends.

Current estimates from the Centre for Ageing Better indicate that eight million people are living in dangerous homes, 2.6 of whom are aged 55 and over.

Of the 3.7 million English homes classified as non-decent, over half of these are headed by someone over the age of 55.

The Centre for Ageing Better report urges the government to develop a national strategy to fix poor-quality homes of all tenure types across England, backed by “sufficient, long-term funding”.

At a local level, the Centre for Ageing Better calls on councils to set up Good Home Hubs. These local one-stop shops would address all aspects of home repairs and adaptations, from offering support finding trusted tradespeople and identifying what work needs to be done, to how to finance repairs and improve energy efficiency.

Dr Carole Easton OBE, chief executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “There is a terrible personal cost for older people who live in homes that are making them ill and which have the potential to seriously injure and even kill them. Older people are more likely to live in a dangerous, damp or cold home and are among the most vulnerable to the health impacts which can exacerbate conditions such as asthma and arthritis, as well as increasing the risk of an acute episode such as a stroke or heart attack.”

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 Easton added: “But this country’s poor-quality housing crisis also reaps a terrible cost on our already stretched health and social care sectors. Fixing unsafe homes is a value-for-money solution that will not only help people to live healthier and longer lives, but will also reduce pressures on health and social care.”

In addition, she said “it beggars belief that home improvement is not higher up the political agenda”, concluding that improving the country’s health cannot be done without improving the quality of England’s homes.

Dr Nicola Brimblecombe, senior researcher at the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre and lead of the LSE research project (CAPE), said: “Our study clearly shows how poor quality and unsuitable housing can increase people’s care needs and their ability to live independently, negatively affect wellbeing, and reduce choice.

She added: “Improving housing has the potential to improve people’s quality of life, reduce health and care inequalities, and save money for government as well as having wider benefits to the environment and society. Negative effects of poor housing for social care can be long-term - action to improve poor quality housing cannot come soon enough.”