Councillor Veronica Jones: We’re creating choice for older people to help maintain independence

One of the greatest challenges faced by people who are reaching their golden years is the loss of independence which has taken years to build. Reduced mobility often leaves older people struggling just to look after themselves. Northumberland Conservatives are working to ensure everyone can live the most fulfilling life possible.

This week, the Conservative administration at County Hall launched its new plans for older people and for those needing help to live independently.

We have set out a strategy for promoting housing schemes designed to help people to live independently which will cover schemes for older people, from extra care schemes to sheltered housing and homes for working age adults with a variety of support needs.

Northumberland has an increasing older population with associated health and social care needs. People now are able to live longer with long term health conditions.  We also have an increase in the number of younger people with quite complex needs.

However, getting older, living with a disability, or a mental health condition should not be a barrier to living a full independent life with a choice of appropriately designed, well located accommodation.

The plan sets out the council’s intention to increase the options for accommodation for residents of Northumberland who need different levels of support to allow them to live as independently as possible in their community.

We already have some very good examples of supported housing in the county, from extra care schemes such as the Manors at Prudhoe to accommodation for single people who need support and a range of sheltered housing.  However, there is just not enough to meet the need or to offer choice.

For example there are almost four hundred adults between the ages of 18 and 64, currently living with parents who will at some point require accommodation and a further 1400 plus children with a special education need.  Not all of these will require support in their adult life but many will.

On paper, we have an abundance of sheltered housing but some of the schemes are of an older design and may need remodelling or re building and the Council and other providers are reviewing their schemes, taking into account current demands and options for refurbishment.

Research commissioned by the Ageing Well Partnership Board found that older people felt there were no housing options available to them. Priorities are to have two bedrooms, and to have links to the community via shops and transport.

We are not proposing any single model of support but want to identify the specific need that can be used by Adult Services, the Council’s own Housing team, Housing Associations and private developers

There are several plans in the pipeline. I have recently visited two new accommodation developments, both ready for occupation shortly, providing accommodation for residents with low level learning disabilities and physical health needs. Many others, particularly lousing for older people, are being planned but the important thing is that we provide accommodation that is fit for purpose, can help residents maintain their independence in their own home and which can, when needed, fulfil long term care needs at home and not be a stepping stone towards residential care.