1.0 Introduction

1.1 Aim and Scope

This manual is designed to provide guidance in supporting residents to remain independent in their own homes for as long as possible. Although it is aimed primarily at almshouse charities that only provide accommodation, it will also be helpful for that small proportion of almshouse charities offering specialist services such as extra care, residential care and in some cases, nursing facilities.  Almshouse charities may have no staff at all, they may have a warden/scheme manager and some offer specialist services.

In terms of rising standards, the provision of modern kitchens and bathrooms, level access showers, full central heating and a range of assistive technologies are improvements which should become the norm.  A good benchmark is that an almshouse should provide a home that trustees would be happy for one of their own family to live.

The scope of this publication is confined to general advice and signposting to other services provided by the community.  It is not exhaustive but is intended to assist charities to help residents to access services as they become more frail and so enhance their quality of life.  It is laid out in chapters, each covering a specific aspect for supporting almshouse residents.  Throughout there are references to further reading, research material and relevant websites and a full list of contact details for organisations mentioned in the text can be found at Appendix B.

The manual contains detailed information on state benefits even though the present system is due for major reform.  The type, scale and rates of individual benefits are accurate at the time of publication and will inevitably change.  They are included to illustrate the breadth and complexity of various state benefits and in this respect, they should be a useful starting point in understanding the system and identifying entitlement.

Although reference is made to various aspects of legislation and regulation with regard to the care of residents, almshouse charities needing definitive advice should seek professional guidance.

1.2 Some Facts and Figures

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published figures for the UK population in October 2012 as follows:

  • Over 12 million people are of state pension age (Oct 2012 – aged 60 for women and 65 for men)
  • 3 million people are over the age of 65
  • Over 21 million people are over the age of 50
  • Over 1.4 million people are over the age of 85
  • Over 12,000 people are over the age of 100.

The ONS also published the following projections:

  • The figures for people over 60 years is expected to pass 20 million by 2031
  • The percentage of population over 60 is predicted to rise from current level of 22% to 29% by 2033 and 31% by 2058
  • By 2083 about 1 in 3 people will be over 60
  • The number of over 85s is predicted to double in the next 20 years.

Changes to pensionable ages are being phased in gradually.  The Pensions Act 2011 equalised State Pension Age (SPA) to 65 for men and women by 2018 and then a further increase to age 66 by 2020.

The Alzheimer’s Society estimates that there are currently 800,000 people in the UK with dementia (October 2012).  They predict that by 2021 there will be over 1 million people with dementia and by 2051 that figure will rise to 1,700,000.

1.3 Types of Almshouse Accommodation

The Almshouse Association has 1660 member charities administering close to 2600 groups of almshouses. The majority of groups of almshouses (over 1600) have less than 10 dwellings. Figures as at October 2012 are as follows:

  • 0-9 dwellings 1611
  • 10-19 dwellings 548
  • 20-50 dwellings 352
  • 50-99 dwellings 63
  • Over 100 dwellings 8

The greater number of almshouse charities have no warden or scheme manager support and are run by a voluntary board of trustees. There are 419 charities that have at least one warden or scheme manager. Many of the larger charities have administrative staff and are managed by a chief executive.

Almshouse charities with bedsitting rooms are now in the minority. Wherever possible, these are being converted to provide one or two bedroom flats or cottages. Recommended best practice is to install wet rooms or walk in showers wherever possible. Most almshouse charities have an emergency alarm system connected to a central control to provide 24-hour emergency support.

1.4 Almshouse Residents

A person who wishes to be nominated for an almshouse dwelling is required to qualify as a beneficiary of the charity to which they apply and every individual occupying an almshouse must qualify in their own right.  The beneficiary group derives from the wishes of the original benefactor and would be enshrined in the objects of the charity drawn up by the Charity Commission which is the regulator for all almshouse charities.

The most usual qualification will be someone who is considered to be in need, either financially and/or for other reasons.  Many almshouse charities will be restricted to those above retirement age, often living within a clearly defined area such as a parish, town or part of a city.  Need is determined by the trustee body for each charity but is usually taken to mean someone who would benefit from the help and support of the almshouse charity.  In financial terms, the criterion is generally that the applicant should not be able to afford to buy or rent an equivalent size dwelling as that provided by the almshouse charity.  Although the majority of almshouse charities are for those of retirement age, there are also almshouse charities for families, the disabled and for specific groups such as the dependents of certain trades or professions.

This publication is aimed at the full range of housing for people in need but will concentrate on the older age group.  The particular requirements of residents who are disabled are considered in Chapter 5.

1.5 Homes and Communities Agency

If an almshouse charity is a Registered Provider with the Homes and Communities Agency, it would also be required to adhere to The Regulatory Framework for Social Housing in England, details of which can be found at www.hca.co.uk

From April 2013 the Housing Ombudsman’s jurisdiction will extend to all social housing.  The stated mission is impartial dispute resolution.  More information can be obtained from www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk

1.6 Definition of Support and Care

In this publication ‘Support’ is defined as the additional help provided by the charity outside social services provision to improve the quality of life for residents.

The term ‘Care’ is used throughout to mean help that extends beyond support and is usually provided by outside agencies.

1.7 Legal Framework

During 2013 and 2014 it is expected that there will be many changes to legislation affecting almshouse residents.  As far as possible new legislation will be addressed in the revised version of Standards of Almshouse Management, due to be published in 2013.

Guidance will be published on our website:  www.almshouses.org and, wherever possible, information articles on any new legislation will appear in the Almshouses Gazette.

© 2013. This document is copyright of the Almshouse Association and no part of it may be produced or published without the Association's written consent.