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Press Release: Housing Plan for Older People a Critical Challenge for New Minister

Housing associations at AGM 2020 are keen to use their experience and expertise to develop more affordable supported housing options for older people to grow old safely and independently in their communities

The Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) welcomes the commitment in the Programme for Government 2020 – Our Shared Future, to undertake decisive action on foot of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on our older population by embedding ageing-in-place housing options that will enable people to grow old safely and independently in their communities. “Almost 25% of our member organisations’ housing stock, 9,000 homes throughout Ireland, are for older persons, with many providing additional care supports. Housing associations have been providing supported housing for decades and have gained expertise in developing options for older people to continue to live and remain active in their communities. The ICSH is pleased that the Programme for Government 2020 tasks the successful local authority and approved housing body partnership with delivering appropriate housing for older people. We look forward to working with Minister Darragh O’Brien and Government to deliver on this ambition”.  So says Dr. Donal McManus, Chief Executive of the ICSH, launching the ICSH Annual Report 2019 today (11am, 30th June 2020) at the organisation’s AGM.

Welcoming keynote speaker Professor Gerard Quinn, Raoul Wallenberg Institute (Sweden) and Research Chair (University of Leeds), Dr. McManus says that international research on housing, ageing and ageism as well as disability, points to an urgent need to widen our housing options for older people and develop sustainable housing solutions such as smaller rightsized homes in clustered settings as well as lifetime adaptable homes, that ensure older people are not marginalised in their communities, but are fully participative and embedded.

Speaking at the ICSH AGM 2020, Professor Gerard Quinn says: “the landscape is shifting internationally when it comes to housing options for older people. It’s good to see Ireland join this journey as evidenced in the Programme for Government.  Decisive policies that clearly prioritise community living for older people are being developed as alternatives to institutional and residential care. Greater health vulnerabilities present in congregated settings, as we’ve recently witnessed.  A sustainable recovery means that Ireland needs to build its community healthcare capacity alongside a coherent policy on community and supported housing options.  Together these can be more cost effective than institutionalised care and achieve better outcomes for our older citizens.  This is going to be a key pillar of the proposed UN treaty on the rights of older people.” 

The ICSH welcomes the ‘Age-friendly Ireland’ measures in the Programme for Government 2020 – Our Shared Future and ‘meeting the accommodation and future healthcare needs of our diverse, ageing  population’. This is recognition that the residential care ‘one size fits all model’ is not sustainable or inclusive. The Programme also identifies the need for learning on foot of the COVID-19 pandemic and has committed to establishing a ‘Commission for Care’ to examine the care and support needs of our older population; we have a substantial health and demographic evidence base from which housing for older people targets can be established. This is essential.

“The new Government has five major challenges to ensure our government is responding to the housing needs of our population. They are: returning to full scale social housing build in the aftermath of COVID-19; developing a new cost rental scheme; housing for older people; preventing a resurgence of homelessness and the reclassification of AHBs. Voters have identified that health and housing are the most critical issues for Ireland in 2020. The two areas are deeply intertwined –  and never more so in light of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on our older population. The ICSH has been in touch with our members, both small and large, throughout the country over the course of the crisis and they have reported very few obstacles to ensuring the health and wellbeing of their tenants. The sector has managed extremely well”,  says Dr. McManus.

Notes for Editors:

  • The ICSH Annual General Meeting to be held via Zoom on Tuesday , 30th June 2020, at 11am.
  • The Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) was established in 1982 and is the national social housing federation of non-profit voluntary and other national housing associations. The ICSH represents approximately 270 member organisations that manage almost 40,000 homes and house almost 100,000 people including families on a low income, older people, people with disabilities and households experiencing homelessness. ICSH members operate in every local authority area in the country and in over 500 communities across Ireland.
  • Ireland’s housing association sector provided 4,127 new social rented homes in 2019, 41% of the total national delivery of social housing, and took almost 5,000 households off the social housing waiting list. The Rebuilding Ireland target for housing associations (2016-2021) is an additional 15,000 new long-term social homes. We’ve delivered almost 11,000 homes since Rebuilding Ireland was launched. Click here for more details https://icsh.ie/resources/housing-association-activity-report-2019/
  • The ICSH submission on a Programme for Government 2020 is available here https://icsh.ie/resources/programme-for-government-2020-icsh-proposals-on-housing-issues/
  • The ICSH contributed to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government’s Housing Options for Our Ageing Population Policy Statement https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/ea33c1-housing-options-for-our-ageing-population-policy-statement and on foot of this, we recently completed a research document on rightsizing https://icsh.ie/resources/right-sizing-in-the-approved-housing-body-sector. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures predict that the population aged 65 years and over will increase significantly from 629,800 in 2016 to nearly 1.6 million by 2051. Therefore, while around 13.3% of the population was aged 65 years and older in 2016, this will rise to between 23.9% and 27.4% in 2051.
  • Professor Gerard Quinn directs the Centre on International Disability Law & Policy at the Law School of the National University of Ireland and has a particular interest in the intersectionality between old age and disability. He has recently highlighted the risks to vulnerable people and older people in residential settings.
  • The UN has set up an Open Ended Working Group on ageing (UN OEWG) and the rights of older people. Part of its task is to consider proposals for drafting a treaty on the rights of older people. Many Governments and NGOs around the world have contributed ideas about the shape and content of the proposed treaty. Ireland participates through the EU – which, so far, has not committed to the idea of a treaty. For full information on the draft proposals, visit https://social.un.org/ageing-working-group/.
  • A Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes has recently been established in the USA. The Commission will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic in nursing homes. https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-announces-membership-independent-coronavirus-commission-safety-and-quality-nursing-homes
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