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Carers and their families forgotten by national housing policies

29 July 2016

Charity warns that failure to address housing challenges for carers is a national health issue

Research published today by Carers UK reveals the extent to which the lack of a strategic national housing and care policy is letting down unpaid carers and their families, who are struggling to provide good and safe care in inaccessible and inadequate housing. Furthermore, the research, Caring Homes, highlights how a failure to address these housing challenges is a national health issue [1].

A survey of over 5,000 carers by Carers UK revealed [2]:

  • 1 in 5 carers (18%) are waiting for adaptations to be made
  • 10% said that their home was in poor condition, damp or disrepair, rising to 15% of carers renting privately
  • 15% of carers said there isn’t enough space for someone to provide overnight care, rising to 19% of carers living in social housing
  • 13% of carers said that as a result of caring there isn’t enough space to live comfortably, rising to 18% of carers living in social housing

Caring Homes shows that current housing policy does not cater for the caring needs of UK’s ageing or disabled population. With growing numbers of people living longer, often with disabilities or long-term health conditions, there is an increasing demand for accessible and suitable housing. However, 95% of homes are currently deemed as inaccessible [3]. One carer who looks after both her adult child and her mother told Carers UK: “If I had other accommodation with good access, my Mum could live with us and that would mean a lot less travelling and more time to help Mum and help her to stay healthier and safer”

There is also demand for specialist homes that cater for specific care and support needs, yet these homes make up just 5% of current housing stock across the country [4]. Specialist housing provides an increased level of support for both the carer and the person they care for. As well as providing a vital social network, there is an important net economic benefit from investing in specialist homes for older people of over £219 million per year [5]. One carer looking after her adult child said: “The person I care for would like to move out into supported living but nothing suitable can be found.”

Not only is the UK facing a shortage of suitable homes for its ageing and disabled population, but the quality of existing housing stock is not fit-for-purpose. The annual cost to NHS England of specific aspects of housing disrepair exceeds £1.4 billion, rising to £2.5 billion if all homes with significant health and safety hazards are considered [6].

What’s more, Caring Homes highlights the important links between housing and health outcomes. Damp, unfit and cold housing exacerbates or increases the risk of a range of health problems, especially for those who already have health conditions that require care. Waiting for adaptations means families are less able to manage and caring becomes even harder. This places enormous strain on the carers, with carers sustaining injuries from moving and handling [7] as well as having to spend an increased amount of time caring [8]. One carer who looks after her adult son told Carers UK: “Fighting for adaptations for 8 years is taking its toll on my health” [9].

Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

“There are currently 6.5 million people across the UK caring unpaid for an older, ill or disabled relative or friend. This number is predicted to continue to grow, as we live longer, often with long-term health conditions or disability and because social care services have not kept pace with growing demands for care. This is forcing more families to step in to look after their loved ones, often without the support they need.
“The failure of the UK’s housing stock to adapt to the changing demands of an ageing population is making it more difficult for carers and those they care for to manage at home. Unless this is addressed, carers will be unable to cope at home, placing increased pressure on an already fragile social care system.
“Time is not on our side – as more of us begin to take on caring roles, we need the right housing to be able to do so safely and well. The Government has already identified the importance of improving support for carers through the development of its Carer’s Strategy, and this must extend to housing. Until a national cross-Government housing and care strategy is developed, with needs of an ageing population at its heart, carers will continue to struggle in homes that are inaccessible and unsuitable for caring.”

Carers UK sets out a number of key recommendations in Caring Homes to address some of the housing challenges for carers, including:

  • A national cross-Government housing and care strategy needs to be developed with the needs of those with disabilities and an ageing population at its heart
  • The Government should exempt carers, who need an extra bedroom to help them carry out their caring responsibilities, from the ‘bedroom tax’
  • Local authorities need to support and encourage the creation of a nationwide database of suitable properties, to make better use of existing stock and adapted properties
  • Planning obligations should be better utilised, to help ensure that more accessible and suitable homes are built which are flexible across the life course and enable family caring
  • In monitoring the implementation of the Care Act 2014, the Government should include an assessment of whether housing needs are being considered as part of carer’s assessments and needs assessments

For more information and a copy of Carers UK’s Caring Homes report, visit:


[1] Carers UK, Caring Homes: how the Carers Strategy can make housing suitable for carers, 2016:

[2] Carers UK, State of Caring survey, 2014

[3] Age UK, (2015) Agenda for Later Life

[4] CIH and Housing LIN (2014), New Approaches to Housing for Older People

[5] Frontier Economics for the HCA, Financial benefits of investment in specialist housing for vulnerable and older people, 2010

[6] Building Research Establishment (2010) Quantifying the Costs of Poor Housing BRE Information Paper

[7] Carers Week (2012) In sickness and in health: research found that 36% of respondents had sustained an injury due to caring

[8] New research from Australia shows that the installation of home adaptations reduced the number of hours spent caring; adaptations to assist with moving around the house result in a 41% reduction in the time spent by a carer assisting someone from 8.5 hours to 5 hours.

[9] Carers UK, State of Caring survey, 2014

[10] Census 2011

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