The SPAG newsletter is distributed with the Southwark Pensioners Centre 'One in Five' newsletter every other month. Some recent items have been copied below.

FROM THE SPAG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018

SOUTHWARK: AN AGE FRIENDLY BOROUUGH

Southwark calls itself and age-friendly borough because of the commitment made by Cllr Peter John in 2015 to the World Health Organisation’s Global Network of Age Friendly Cities.

The WHO’s policy is their response to the rapid increase in global ageing and urbanisation that simply asks those who commit to it to listen to its older populations, have policies in place to meet their needs and to share knowledge with other members of the Global Network.

Southwark is also changing rapidly, we see this all around us and we know that the Council has projected that its population of over 65 year olds will increase by 56% between 2014 and 2030.

When Cllr John applied to join the Global network he cited existing key services and strategies that are indeed age-friendly to support his application.  Since then, although some progress has been maintained, there are worrying signs that the Council may be loosing sight of its Commitment and even going back on it. Age-Friendliness has been dropped from its 2018 Fairer Future Commitments. The Older Persons Partnership Board that Peter John mentions as “one of the main forums for engaging with older people” has not met since 2017.  Above all Southwark seems to have abandoned its Age-friendly Housing Strategy (2015)in favour of the age-unfriendly New Southwark Plan (2017) that only mentions age twice and gives no specific detail.

Southwark needs to maintain its age-friendly commitment

If the Council does not have an age-friendly housing policy in place how will it meet the housing needs of its growing older population or ensure that developers provide life time design in their new homes? Age UK estimates that the numbers of older people living in private rented accommodation in Southwark is set to rise 110% by 2039. It also says that many private renters, although not all, are ‘Living in Fear’ in below standard accommodation.  Meanwhile the Sunday Telegraph in an article headlined Huge Surge in Home Deaths Due to Cold Snap (16.9.2018) reported that people in the UK were almost 10 times more likely to die from a cold home than in a road traffic accident. Southwark needs to provide good social housing, some of it supported, to address the problems of poor housing provision for its older people.  It also needs to step up its licensing of rented properties and monitor disability discrimination in the housing sector.

The Social Regeneration Dividend

The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) will bring a very large Social infrastructure dividend to Southwark because of its massive regeneration programme. Without a real commitment to age-friendliness we will not benefit from this.  So it was really disappointing to see the only mention to ageing in the Draft Social Regeneration Framework, was an oblique reference to using life expectancy as an “exemplar indicator of the borough wide approach to improving wellbeing across the generations”. In other words in a Borough where the life expectancy of men aged 65 has been historically below average we must all try to live longer without any promise of help from its Social Regeneration policy or risk spoiling statistical outcomes.

In asking for good age-friendly design we know our needs meet the wellbeing needs of all generations. At a recent meeting SPAG members said they would like the dividend to be spent for existing residents on more public toilets, street benches, staffed intergenerational community day centres, walking routes, good signage, well lit roads and pavements, segregated cycle lanes, good access to Town Centres and good street crossings.

Hopefully Southwark Council will once again give its Commitment to age-friendliness the attention it deserves and start talking again to its ageing population, Meanwhile, we must all keep the pressure up whenever the term age-friendly is used just to boost the Council’s profile.

Ann O’Brien
25 October 2018

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FROM THE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER NEWSLETTER 2018


LIVING IN FEAR - EXPERIENCES OF OLDER PRIVATE RENTERS IN LONDON

At SPAG’s June 2018 meeting Gordon Deuchars, Policy and Campaigns Manager Age UK London, spoke about the initial findings of new research into older private renters in London. He began his very interesting and informative talk by saying that it was unusual for Age UK to use such an emotive title as “Living in Fear” for a publication, but that it reflected the real experience of many older private tenants in London.

Gordon said that In 2014 there were 1,806 older private renters in Southwark and their number  was projected to increase to 3,802 by 2039.  While he acknowledged that some private tenants were quite happy with their housing, many were living in some of the worse conditions of any sector while paying the highest rents.  After housing costs are taken into account, the poverty rate of pensioners in Inner London is twice as high as nationally.

A diminishing number of tenants have regulated tenancies dating from before 1989, but since February 1997 all tenancies are Assured Shorthold Tenancies.  Although regulated tenants are protected from arbitrary rent increases those with assured tenancies are not, and both groups of older private tenants fear the effect of the Housing Benefit Cap on their fixed incomes.

For many private tenants a good month was one where their Landlords did not notice them.  This insecurity often stopped them from asking for repairs or for permission for essential adaptations to be carried out.

At the heart of their fear was the lack of security of tenure for those with Assured Shorthold Tenancies, usually granted for six months and then often allowed to run on.   After six months  even if their rent is up-to-date and they have kept to their tenancy conditions,  they can be evicted by being served with a 2 months notice to quit under Section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act.

No wonder many private tenants do not want to put their heads above the parapet and attract their landlord’s attention.

Section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act

Gordon accepted questions throughout his talk and the meeting ended with a lively discussion.    Members were particularly shocked to learn of the provisions of S.21 with its No-fault evictions.

Gordon told us that Generation Rent, who have led the campaign for the introduction of 3 year minimum term tenancies are now campaigning to scrap S.21. The meeting agreed that SPAG should support Generation Rent’s campaign.

Campaigning

Since our meeting with Gordon, Age UK have sent us notice of a new Renters Group for older private tenants to campaign for a better deal and particularly for full security of tenure. The first meeting was held at AgeUK London on 16 August.  

AgeUK’s report “Living in Fear” is online at https://www.ageuk.org.uk/bp-assets/globalassets/london/documents/older-private-renters/living-in-fear.pdf


By the middle of August over 50,000 people had signed Generation Rent’s online petition.  Details of their campaign with a link to the petition can be found at http://www.generationrent.org/
end_section_21.  

Ann O’Brien
21.8.2018

 

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