Sheltered housing cuts increase loneliness in older people, says UNISON

UNISON Scotland is warning today against further cuts to sheltered housing budgets. The union says cuts are contributing to a generation of lonely older people and do not make financial sense when considering the effects on health.

UNISON’s report, Giving Shelter released today (Friday, 6 April 2018), asked housing wardens about cuts in their sheltered housing and the impact. Over 6 in 10 of those asked said there had been job cuts in their sheltered housing and 1 in 4 said the jobs and hours cuts had been considerable and they were worried about their tenants. Ninety per cent worry about further cuts in the pipeline. In Glasgow the budget for sheltered housing has been cut to zero, from £5.6m in 2013/14.

Elderly tenants in sheltered housing are being forced to rely more and more on electronic buttons and alarms to call for help rather than getting face to face support by wardens and support staff. Meaning they get less social interaction, less support and fewer organised events. Which in turn can contribute to more complex health problems, more ill-health and more hospital admissions.

UNISON say this is another example of austerity hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.

A UNISON member, in the report, from a housing association, said: “I think that the real value of sheltered housing is often not recognised. Our service is making a real difference to people’s lives and helping prevent hospital admissions or a need for long term residential home care. Our outcomes can’t always be measured. It can be around a sense of safety, security and the knowledge that someone can visit to resolve a minor or sometimes, a very major issue.”

Dave Watson, UNISON head of public affairs said: “We are only starting to learn of the detrimental effect loneliness has on our health and well-being. And we do know that services like sheltered housing save us money in the long term, by supporting older people, keeping them active. Supporting independent living makes financial sense for all of us.

“It is harrowing to read what our members say in this report. Surely our grandmothers, grandfathers and other elderly people living in sheltered housing deserve a properly staffed and resourced service? UNISON members see the effects of cuts on vulnerable people every day. Quality sheltered housing services – as well as crucially providing dignity, support and a sense of security for tenants and their families – are truly preventative, saving money in other budgets.”

UNISON suggests that all those currently taking decisions about public spending reflect on this and other reports in our Damage series, which highlight some of the very real impacts of austerity cuts. And that those making decisions specifically about spending on sheltered housing listen to the voices of staff in the trade unions working on the ground. Listen to what our members say about their fears for the health and wellbeing of tenants. There is a human and financial cost that is unquantifiable if we do services like sheltered housing badly.

Notes to editor:
Read the full report here:

UNISON Contacts:
Dave Watson, head of public affairs, 07958 122409
Danny Phillips, communication officer 0141 342 2877 / 07944 664110