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Electrical Safety First is urging the Government to put an end to poor quality housing after its report, released today, concludes that one million people aged over 75 currently live in non-decent homes.

The report, A Shock to the System: Electrical Safety in an Ageing Society, reveals that the current housing stock is putting vulnerable people at risk, and is not fit to allow people to age safely in their own homes, with those living in low-income households or in rural areas most affected. A lack of new builds combined with an ageing population means this situation will worsen unless urgent action is taken.

Housing is classed as non-decent if it fails to meet the Government’s Decent Homes Standard, and means they are not warm enough, are in a state of disrepair or do not have modern facilities. Poor electrical safety is a particular concern - nearly two thirds of households with a couple over 60 do not meet basic electrical safety standards , which include having such life-saving devices such as a modern fusebox, residual current device, circuit breakers and PVC wiring.

The report reveals serious concerns about the electrical safety of older people. More than 350,000 people are seriously injured by electricity every year and older adults are more likely to be affected - a person over 60 is ten times more likely to die in a fire than someone one aged 17 to 24.

The Charity explains how older people are disproportionately at risk because they are living in their properties for longer, meaning there is a longer time between comprehensive checks and the electrical installations and appliances also tend to be older; 42% of householders who have lived in their property for 30 or more years live in non-decent accommodation .

Phil Buckle, Director General of Electrical Safety First, said: “The Government has a duty to ensure that no-one is living in unsafe housing, and yet a million over 75s live in housing deemed non-decent by their own standards. A shortage of new builds means that housing stock will continue to age, electrics will continue to deteriorate and vulnerable people will continue to be put at risk. Most people want to stay in their home as long as possible, but for this to happen we need central and local governments to act and ensure elderly people can maintain their independence by living in safe and decent houses.”

Baroness Greengross, Chief Executive of the International Longevity Centre, who authored the report on behalf of Electrical Safety First, said: “As our population ages we are witnessing more older people living independently at home. It is therefore vital that every effort should be made to make the home environment as safe as possible.  Our Inquiry found however, that too many older people live in poor housing conditions potentially putting them at risk of electrical harm. At the same time, growing numbers of people with dementia need to be confident that their homes, which should be as hazard-free as possible. We know there are 1 million older people living in non-decent homes; there now needs to be a concerted effort from central government and local authorities to rectify this”.

The report also notes that there are other barriers to older people being electrically safe, which include a fear of letting strangers into their homes to carry out essential maintenance work, the costs of hiring  tradespeople and social isolation – all of which mean hazards may go unnoticed. Dementia can also increase safety risks as memory problems and confusion can mean electrical appliances are used unsafely.

To address these issues, Electrical Safety First has produced a free leaflet which includes tips and advice for anyone concerned about safety in their own home or that of a relative/friend. The Charity also says that a number of safety issues can be identified and addressed through a simple visual check of a home and has produced a free smartphone app to carry out these checks. For more information, to download the booklet or access the app, visit www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/agesafe.

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