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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:28 am on 20th October 2009.

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Photo of Sarah Teather Sarah Teather Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing and Planning) 10:28 am, 20th October 2009

Thank you, Mr. Olner. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time.

I congratulate Mr. Cox on securing the debate. This issue is of extreme interest to many people up and down the country. I congratulate him on the tone with which he opened the debate. He was careful to ensure that we understood that he was saying not that floating support is always wrong, nor that wardens are always right, but that the key point is consultation. We must ensure that residents in sheltered accommodation get what they need and that their views are listened to and taken into account.

Mr. Drew spoke of the complexities of the support that is needed in sheltered housing schemes and the dangers of appearing to follow cheaper models. Bob Spink, who is no longer in the Chamber, pointed out that the cheaper option might not always be cheaper in the long term. My hon. Friend Dr. Pugh spoke about changes in the models for warden schemes, even where they continue.

My hon. Friend Mr. Heath spoke about what happens when wardens are not in place; for example, people might fall and be unable to access support. That reminded me of what happened to my grandmother 20 years ago. She was living in sheltered accommodation that had wardens when she fainted and broke her shoulder. Unfortunately, she lay on the floor for the best part of eight hours, so it is not always the case that, where wardens are in place, people are prevented from being left in a vulnerable position for an extended period.

As I listened to the opening remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Torridge and West Devon, I was reminded of a consultation meeting with Age Concern that I attended just last week. Age Concern has been running a series of focus groups with elderly people to look at the Government's Green Paper, "Shaping the Future of Care Together." It wants to make sure that local politicians understand what older people think about the questions posed in the Green Paper and that we understand what older people feel most strongly about.

What struck me most particularly about the comments of the people on the group in Brent was what was said about their complex needs and how meeting those needs allows them to remain independent. The issue is not always about practical elements of support, for example, meals on wheels or adaptations to homes; it is often about emotional support. People on the group in Brent spoke about the extent to which depression is under-reported and under-diagnosed in older people and how daily emotional contact is essential if they are to remain independent. Once depression sets in, it often has a knock-on effect on many other aspects of physical well-being and someone's ability to remain in their own home.