Our home is our castle – reflections on a year as Chair

Sara McKee reflects on a year as FILT Chair ahead of her appearance at the HousingLin annual conference where she’ll debate housing choices for older people.

In 1644, English judge Sir Edward Coke was quoted as saying, “For a man’s house is his castle”. Since that time the expression is almost always “An Englishman’s home is his castle”.

We often hear how people, particularly older people, want to stay in the home they’ve lived in for many years. And why not? That’s where we’ve built up so many memories, raised families and feel most comfortable. It’s close to the community we belong to and where we are connected.

Unfortunately, many houses built over the past couple of centuries are no longer fit for our ageing population. The stairs are too steep, the plumbing is archaic and the roof leaks. The choice of places to move into instead are often unappealing and strip us of our independence.

That’s why we’ve launched our campaign “Begins at Home” to raise awareness of the needs of homeowners in our communities. We’re championing those householders who are not eligible for grants or other public funds, but don’t have the cash to make the necessary repairs and maintenance to keep their homes safe. We work with Home Improvement Agencies across the UK to provide funds to help to install new boilers, fix leaky roofs and provide other handyman services.

Our philosophy is not only built on the original phrase coined in 1382 by John Wyclif: “charity begins at home”, but also from the practical perspective of the UK’s lack of suitable housing for all ages. At a recent conference on innovation, which inevitably talked about NEW housing models, we highlighted the value to health for many people of improving their existing bricks and mortar. New build will not happen fast enough and doesn’t deliver the solution for many people. Let’s invest in our existing housing stock so people can continue to be part of the communities they’ve always lived in.

So after one year as the Chair of Foundations Independent Living Trust, I’m determined to drive our message out to as wide an audience as we can under our campaign banner.

Begins@Home is here to:

* Provide funds to help individuals stay in their own homes safe and warm

* Help health and social care commissioners feel confident that homes are fit for living well

* Ensure existing housing has a long-term future in our communities.

Please join in our campaign to help us raise awareness as well as funds by following us on Twitter and via our website www.beginsathome.org. With big thanks to all our partners including nPower, SSE, Gas Safe, Taylor Wimpey, MaximEyes and British Red Cross.

Sara McKee

Chair, Foundations Independent Living Trust

Pilot to help make homes dementia friendly

People living with dementia and their families can now access funding to help them live at home for longer.

The charity, Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT), will allocate a £10,000 donation by residential developer Taylor Wimpey to four Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) – Age UK Isle of White, Lincolnshire Home Improvement Agency, Preston Care & Repair and WE Care & Repair. Each HIA will receive a £2,500 grant and the money can be used for improvements such as bathroom and shower adaptations.

Sara McKee, Chair of FILT said: “We know that people with dementia want to stay living at home but sometimes their house isn’t safe or dementia friendly. As a result, they can enter residential care prematurely which has a detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing.

“The funding from Taylor Wimpey will help HIAs provide an environment that is dementia friendly and contributes to a good quality of life, the ultimate goal of all our work.

“This is the first time we’ve funded home improvements specifically targeted at supporting people with dementia and we’ll use it as a pilot to gauge the impact of the work undertaken.”

More than 670,000 people in England live with dementia and the numbers are set to double over the next 30 years, according to the Department of Health. For those living at home, house improvements play a vital role in helping to reduce an individual’s anxiety as well as the risk of injury like falls or burns.

Last year FILT has launched the ‘Begins at Home’ campaign to highlight the huge impact that small house improvements can have on the lives of older and vulnerable people.