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[Mr. Bill Olner in the Chair] — Wardens (Sheltered Housing)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 20th October 2009.

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Photo of Geoffrey Cox Geoffrey Cox Conservative, Torridge and West Devon 9:30 am, 20th October 2009

I do not, because if it is done at the expense of the insecurity of mind of a single elderly person-the House will recall that even as I speak I am reflecting upon the faces of loved ones-if it is done at the expense of a single trace of anxiety in them, I deplore it. If they and others like them have to go to the High Court of England and Wales to seek consultation and democratic participation over things that affect their circumstances and their lives, I would deplore it. I hope that the House would deplore it. I hope the House will send the Minister the clearest expression of its wish that the Government should offer leadership.

Help the Aged, in "Nobody's Listening", says of the Government's current approach:

"There has been a serious-and surprising-lack of leadership from the Department of Communities and local Government (CLG) and the Housing Corporation (HC), which are allowing retirement housing to wither away without proper debate or discussion. This is disgraceful, and a continued lack of engagement and leadership is likely to have further negative impact on existing and future residents."

Those are striking words. They are stark in their warning of the abdication of responsibility that the Government are choosing to adopt. I fully understand that the decisions are for the SPAAs and the local authorities, but that does not mean that the Government should not take a role in leading the right approach in implementing the changes. For when a warden is removed, it affects an elderly person in the most acute way. It removes the single most important thing to them-the symbol and substance of their peace of mind and security.

What I find particularly distressing and troubling is that there are cases in which the situation is even graver. I am talking about real cases. Elderly people may have taken big decisions in their lives based on the understanding that a warden would be present in the development into which they move. They have sold their houses and made family decisions. They have chosen not to live with their daughter who was going to create an annexe for them. They have chosen to sell their house and have made financial allocations to their children, yet they find, having been in the sheltered housing development for a number of years, that the warden upon whom they have placed their reliance is removed.

Some 67 per cent. of SPAAs acknowledged that elderly people in a warden-resident housing development regarded the warden as integral to their welfare but, perhaps significantly, a far lower proportion of those SPAAs agreed that wardens were in fact integral to their welfare. I ask the House to reflect for a moment on what that means. It is as if the SPAAs who filled in the questionnaires for Help the Aged said, "We accept that the overwhelming majority of elderly people regard wardens as integral to their welfare, but we don't accept it. We, the SPAAs, think we know better. We, the SPAAs, say that they are not really very integral and residents would not be lost without them." That permutation of answers to the Help the Aged researchers shows that an orthodoxy, or ideology, is developing about the way in which care should be delivered. My request to the Minister is that the Government should not only take hold of the process of change by delivering and setting down clear guidelines of good practice, but they should reject the idea-as I hope the Minister will say that he does-that the orthodoxy of floating support is, in all cases and circumstances, the only way in which extra-care housing should be delivered.