Society is increasingly consumerist and that means housing providers don’t know best
The right to choose
A person’s home should enable them to define themselves. Society has changed and continues to change and the shift in outlook and expectations is particularly pronounced among older people. We are now all far more diverse, consumerist and individualistic in our outlook and expectations. It is vital that we respond by giving older people greater choice and autonomy to define the services they want rather than seeking to specify and run them in a centralised straightjacket.
Too often the presumption is made that providers of housing for the over-55s know best. But the starting point should be that each resident should have the maximum autonomy and control over their life and the way they choose to live it.
Whether they want to take advantage of any additional services or support from their landlord should always be a personal choice. And we must seek out new ways to provide support and services. The decisions about what mechanisms are right and what service configurations individuals and communities choose to adopt should, whenever possible, be taken by them and not by us. This will require a fundamental shift of approach and isn’t likely to be a quick or easy process.
Localism means widely different things to different people. It is, though, important to understand what localism is and what it means to elderly residents of specialist housing associations like my own in order for it to give people real control.
The Localism Act doesn’t really help. This is a massive bit of legislation. Some of the provisions are about genuine devolution of powers but others are simply mechanisms to introduce new rules and restrictions such as time limiting security of tenure for social tenants and abolishing the Tenant Services Authority.
Localism is about more than just a reallocation of powers between central and local government. It looks beyond the structures and responsibilities of local government to respond directly to the needs of individuals.
The distinction between personal, collective and organisational decisions is of crucial importance.
If we fail to recognise and respect these differences we may well end up interfering in matters that are not our concern while building in disappointment.
Ignoring the opportunities of localism is a greater threat than committing to it.
The development of a strong local offer that encourages self-determination and choice combined with a strong common ethos and culture may be the secret for future success.
Bruce Moore is chief executive of Hanover