The government’s newly formed Older People’s Housing Taskforce held its inaugural meeting in London on 17 May.

Led by Professor Julienne Meyer, a former nurse with an extensive career in researching care for older people, the nineteen strong Taskforce was established under the joint direction of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), working with the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC). It includes senior figures from Age UK and the Home Builders Federation, as well as representatives from local government, housing associations and academics in health and long-term care

The Taskforce is expected to work across the housing, health and care sectors, and produce recommendations to government within the next year on ways to ‘drive an increase in the volume and range of housing options available’ and to explore avenues for support that can give older people greater independence in their own homes.

How did this come about?

In December 2021, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) published its ‘People at the Heart of Care’ white paper, setting out a 10-year vision for adult social care reform. An implementation plan, published in April of this year, set out how £700m of the £2.1bn of funding would be invested over the next 2 years. This included the announcement of the launch by DHSC, alongside DLUHC, an independently chaired Older People’s Housing Taskforce that would produce recommendations to ministers on how to ‘unlock investment in retirement housing to provide more choice of suitable housing for people in later life’.

At the same time, government confirmed its appointment of the Taskforce Chair, Professor Julienne Meyer, the co-founder of My Home Life.

The inaugural meeting was held at a retirement living scheme in St John’s Wood, and confirmed the 18 additional Taskforce members.

What are they trying to achieve?

The Taskforce will establish three sub-groups that will focus on older people’s priorities, housing, and available financial options, and their aim is to work closely with local planning authorities to deliver a wide range of opportunities for the older generations. They will also look to speak with residents and families about experiences and issues, including the type of housing needed as people age, as well as affordability and consumer protection.

Running for 12 months, the Taskforce is expected to provide an independent report to DLUHC and DHSC, with interim findings to be made available after the first 6 months.

What can we expect?

At this early stage, it is not that easy to get a sense of scope of the Taskforce. Even less clear is the way in which their work will be engaging with local planning authorities or the extent to which they may look to identify planning reforms. When the interim findings are released towards the end this year, this should give a flavour of the direction of travel, and will hopefully provide a chance to feed into the work of the Taskforce, including highlighting issues that should be covered in the final report and how those might be addressed.

It is promising to see this important specialist housing sector being given proper attention, not least as provision of housing that meets the needs of older people has benefits that stretch across the whole of the housing industry, both in terms of new supply and freeing up existing family homes. We will keep our eye on their work and report back any insights of relevance to planning and later living development.