15/09/2017 07:21 BST | Updated 15/09/2017 07:21 BST

Start At Home To Protect Our Ageing Population's Future

A home should be a place of security, a place where you feel safe and comfortable, and where your needs can be met. Supported housing offers this to those who are in need of extra help in order to live an independent and fulfilled life. Supported housing covers a myriad of different circumstances and is often a lifeline for some of the most vulnerable. Which is why - as the National Housing Federation's #StartsAtHome campaign highlights - it is vital that supported housing is prioritised and protected by government.

Many thousands of people in the UK currently benefit from sheltered housing, and our ageing society means the need for it will only increase. As the Local Government Association reported recently, the number of specialist homes for older people will need to increase by 400,000 units in less than 20 years.

At Anchor, we want to see older people retain their independence and sheltered housing enables exactly that. It offers a unique solution for those who need some added reassurance but do not need the full-time care offered by a care home. While living independently, people can enjoy being part of a thriving community in a safe and secure environment with help from a manager if needed.

I often hear from older people how much living in suitable accommodation means to them. Empowering someone to feel confident and safe in a home that meets their needs is beneficial for both their physical and mental health.

Investment in retirement housing benefits the taxpayer, too. Research commissioned by Anchor, Hanover and Housing & Care 21 from the thinktank Demos found that sheltered housing saves the UK's cash-strapped NHS and social services at least £486m per year.

And the right housing for older people gets the housing market moving for younger people, too. By enabling older homeowners to move out of homes that are no longer suited to their needs, we are allowing first-time buyers to get onto the housing ladder.

Of course, care homes are inevitably more costly than sheltered housing as they offer full-time care. Therefore, in keeping people out of care homes, there are considerable savings to be made. With an ageing population in the UK - there are now more people aged over 65 in Britain than there are under the age of 16 - the potential saving that supported housing can offer is something not to be overlooked.

Supported housing makes sense on many levels so it's crucial that the government ensures a long-term solution for funding it. Providers must be given the opportunity to meet the demand for housing, which currently far outstrips supply. Anchor is seeing ever greater demand for its services, and our previous research has shown that two-thirds of older people want to downsize but can't due to a lack of suitable housing options.

And while providers like Anchor want to continue building suitable housing for older people, without the right government funding and support, we cannot. The NHF recently revealed that housing associations have cut plans to build homes for vulnerable, elderly or disabled residents by 85% because of concerns over the impact of proposed welfare changes on supported housing.

A joint inquiry by the Communities & Local Government and Work & Pensions select committees reflected the widespread concern about government proposals to reform funding for supported housing. Their report, published in May, stated: "We support the Government in seeking to find a long-term, sustainable funding mechanism that ensures quality, provides value for money, and which protects and boosts the supply of supported housing. But we share the concerns expressed across the sector that the funding proposals, as they stand, are unlikely to achieve these objectives."

We are awaiting an update from Government on its proposals, including its formal response to the joint select committee inquiry. We're keen to work with colleagues across the sector and in government to develop a workable solution that achieves the government's objectives while safeguarding vulnerable older people.