Housing Options and Making Space Projects

The Dolphin Society shares similar aims to WE Care Home Improvements, the independent charity which provides reliable and low cost services and advice to older and disabled homeowners and private tenants in the Bristol area, to help them stay safe and independent. Accordingly we channel some funding through WE Care & Repair to enable them to undertake minor adaptations to the homes of people who fit the Society's criteria, for example installing a walk-in shower or providing a ramp to replace steps. The funding is also used to pay for emergency repairs for example to heating systems.

For further information, please contact WE Care Home Improvements on 0117 9542222 or email:info@bristolcareandrepair.org.uk.

MAKING SPACE is our latest project – it supports de-cluttering.

The WE Care Home Improvement Facilitator manages the Peer Support Volunteers, people who have lived experience of hoarding.

Hoarding is a major issue which has a massive effect on peoples’ lives. Cluttered homes are dangerous homes - full of trip hazards and flammable material. Maintenance on heating systems is impossible if access is impossible and infestations in such homes are commonplace. People who live in cluttered homes cannot invite people in, whether that be family, friends or tradespeople.

WECHI have been involved with hoarders for years (when funds allow) after involvement with the Psychology Dept. at Bath University.

Studies show that peer support is most effective – people who have experienced the problem themselves are best placed to help others: all feel empowered and unashamed so coping strategies can be developed.                  Hoarders are socially isolated – having the support of someone with personal experience and understanding is invaluable as is the practical support of physically able people with transportation. Once the emotional ties to the hoard have been gently loosened the practical challenges of shifting rooms full of clutter cannnot be under-estimated. 

Watch this (newly-cleared!) space for further updates...

HOUSING OPTIONS - a project started in 2021

In 2021 our WE Care Home Improvements colleagues described a key development opportunity for Dolphin to address a significant gap in current service provision which leaves many older and disabled people without appropriate support to live independently in a home which meets their needs.

Appropriate accommodation is key for older people to maintain independence, health, and well-being. However, where the existing home no longer meets need, people do nothing because they do not know who to turn to for trusted support and advice.

Approximately 10,000 householders over the age of 65 in Bristol, live in properties which would be classified as non-decent. Many older people struggle to maintain their homes, which are often too large for their current needs or they may need a more supported home environment. Poor housing is a contributory factor to a number of health conditions such as respiratory illnesses, mental health and wellbeing and social isolation. This results in significant medical need for older people which can be illustrated by looking at the cost to the NHS for first year treatment due to poor housing (Source: Building Research Establishment 2017):

  • Excess cold (£848 million)
  • Falls on stairs (£207 million)
  • Falls associated with baths (£16 million)
  • Damp and mould (£16 million)

Falls are the largest cause of emergency hospital admissions for older people and are a major precipitant of people moving to long term nursing or residential care. In Bristol, 27% of people over 65 have reported having a fall in the last 12 months and 54% have a long-term illness or disability (Source - Bristol Ageing Better).

When mobility reduces, getting in and out of the existing home may become very difficult, along with ability to access local services and stay socially and meaningfully connected. 28% of mainstream housing properties are not suitable to be adapted to meet the need of many older people wishing to move (Foundations, 2019).

We know that If people can maintain independence through supportive environments, there is less need for them to require services that can reduce autonomy and dignity and may prove costly for the individual or the public purse. Having insufficient support can limit coping and precipitate premature moves to more restrictive care settings. It also creates avoidable pressure on the NHS and residential care and increased strain on the housing system.

Research and WECHI experience show that there are many barriers which older people face in relation to considering their future housing options. These include:

• A lack of knowledge of possible housing with care options available to them

• A lack of guidance to make financial decisions

• A lack of help to source and choose a property

• A lack of help to “downsize” possessions

• Organising a move can be daunting and physically demanding

• Fear of changing to a new environment

• Fear of isolation in a new community

For context, up until 2016 WE Care Home Improvements were able to offer a Housing Options service in Bristol. Unfortunately, in 2016 the main funder, (Bristol City Council) needed to withdraw its funding as part of wider service cuts. WE CHI were unable to provide this service again until June 2019 when they established a small Housing Options pilot project with grant funding for 1 year from Bristol Ageing Better and Foundations, (the National Body for Home Improvement Agencies). This was a very successful project. 38 clients received in-depth support, of whom 19 moved to more suitable accommodation. Experience of running this project reaffirmed the level of need for this service and scale of positive outcomes which can be achieved.

Dolphin Society funding now support clients to explore options, including, adapting the home and ‘ageing in place’ and the practicalities of downsizing, (what to keep and how best to dispose of unwanted possessions). Also, with finding a new home, sale of existing home, where needed and managing the moving process, including packing, sorting and utility switching and liaising with all professionals and contractors involved.

Over the first year of the project, a self-funded Housing Options model developed for clients who can afford to pay, offering a range of practical support, according to need. In the 2nd year it is anticipated that the self-funded option will increase the number of clients able to be supported with in-depth casework and help to ensure the longer-term financial sustainability of the service. Also, during the 2 years outcomes will be closely monitored  to illustrate the impact of this work, so that a substantive case can be made to commissioners for statutory funding.

Foundations, the National body for Home Improvement Agencies is keen to support WECHI and has agreed to commission and fund an independent evaluation of the project which they will then share as best practice to other agencies through training sessions and workshops.

The Housing Options project is delivered through WE CHI’s Information and Advice service which provides specialist housing options advice and by a Housing Options Caseworker who provides one to one support, where needed.

In addition, volunteers increase the scope of practical support available, particularly around help to sort through possessions, where downsizing is needed. ‘Experts by Experience’ volunteers have personal experience of making decisions about their future housing arrangements (to move or to stay put) and be willing to share their experience. The role of these volunteers is to provide support and a “listening ear” to client peers who face housing decisions e.g., after experiencing loss of mobility or a life-changing event.