lonelydementiaFew small housing associations have a dementia strategy in place to help cope with the growing number of people with the condition, a situation which is “very worrying”, according to an expert. 

The Small Housing Associations Research, conducted by the Orbit Charitable Trust (OCT), a nationwide charity that helps and supports vulnerable people, found that of the 88 respondents, only 8% have a dementia strategy in place.

In addition, 63% said they did not have a dementia strategy drawn up. Of those, 24% said they did not need one; the same number said a strategy was being developed, while 12 associations said they had not yet thought about it.

Most of the housing groups that responded to the survey said a separate dementia strategy was not considered necessary because of the size of the organisation. One said it dealt with cases on an individual basis, while another said dementia was dealt with as part of its older people’s strategy.

The survey, which follows from OCT’s research published last year into how housing associations and older people’s organisations can work better together to deliver better services, also found that 48% of housing associations do not have an older people’s strategy in place.

Of those without a strategy, a quarter said they were planning to introduce one, or were already developing one. However, 59% said they did not intend to put one in place.
David Hucker, chair of the OCT, called on housing providers to do more to meet the needs of their residents and stressed the importance of having distinct older people’s and dementia strategies because they addressed different needs.

“Dementia is a ticking timebomb and we have to do everything we can to make sure that housing providers have adequate provision in place to provide for the needs of people who are living with the condition,” he said.

About 670,000 people currently live with dementia, about two-thirds of whom are cared for in the community, but the number could double within 30 years.

“The projected growth means that it is incumbent on social housing providers and housing associations to be prepared to support sufferers and their carers” Hucker added.

“The survey has provided us with the ideal opportunity to begin working towards developing robust older people and dementia strategies for smaller housing associations.

“As our population gets older, we cannot wait any longer. We have to be prepared now.”

Researcher Moyra Riseborough, a social housing experts and the author of OCT’s original research report, said no one could afford to ignore the findings of the report. “Social housing tenant populations are ageing so no one can afford to ignore the implications of ageing on their services and arrangements.

“We have to invest more in different approaches; one is to develop older people's capacity to help themselves and the communities they live, and the other is for staff and board members to adjust to the challenges of having an ageing population and learn to work in ways that best support older people.”

Jeremy Porteus, director of Housing Learning and Improvement Network and chair of Homes and Communities Agency’s Vulnerable and Older People’s Advisory Group, said the survey highlighted that the overall level of awareness of dementia needed to be improved among housing providers.

“There need to be ways of both assisting tenants and residents and their carers and a greater appreciation of the different types of dementia so that they can get the support they need for everyday living,” he said.

“For smaller providers, particularly for their housing managers and staff, they are able to draw on training workforce development and peer mentoring, working with dementia specialists.

“I’ve spent 25 years working in housing for older people so I wasn’t surprised with the headline findings, although I was more surprised to find that not more has been put in place.

“The key now is to use the survey findings in a pro-active way to help housing organisations build a strategy to adapt and develop ways of supporting people with dementia.”