On 22nd March 2023, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. The Bishop of Manchester, on behalf of the Bishop of Chelmsford, spoke in support of an amendment to the bill that would require local authorities to being forward an assessment of the local need for housing for older people as part of their housing plans:
The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, I support Amendment 221 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Best, to which, as he indicated, my right reverend friend the Bishop of Chelmsford added her name. She apologises for being unable to be in her place today; in my own brief remarks, I will make a number of points that she would have contributed had she been here. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, who, like the noble Lord, Lord Best, has a long and honourable history of leading the thinking on housing matters in this land.
I declare my interest in housing for older people: as set out in the register, I am a board member of the Wythenshawe Community Housing Group. In fact, it is more than an interest; it is a passion. In my time as chair of the association, we have opened a flagship development of 135 apartments for older people with mixed rental, shared ownership and outright purchase. Developments such as this enable local people to live in dignity in old age. They provide social space as well as private dwellings. In many cases, they allow residents to remain close to their family networks and former neighbours—the support networks that they need in later life. We can do well for older people but that should not have to rely on episcopal passion or potluck. It needs to be part of how we plan housing provision at a strategic level.
The Bishop of Exeter spoke in a debate on healthcare in rural areas on 23rd February 2023, emphasising the need to address challenges in staff retention in the NHS and the care service:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, for securing this important debate. We all acknowledge that the NHS is operating under enormous pressure at the present time. Perhaps inevitably, publicity focuses on our inner cities but, as we have been hearing this afternoon, rural communities are also pinch points. My own county of Devon has the second-oldest population in the country. We should not underestimate the challenge, both logistical and financial, of delivering healthcare to an ageing population, particularly in coastal communities and remote rural areas.
In his 2021 report on coastal communities and their patchy provision of medical services, the Chief Medical Officer for England observed that some
“of the most beautiful … and historically important places”,
including in the south-west region,
“have some of the worst health outcomes in England, with low life expectancy and high rates of many major diseases”.
On 10th December 2020 the Bishop of Peterborough asked Government when it would make retrospective the ability of war widows to retain pension entitlements if they remarried before the law changed:
The Lord Bishop of Peterborough [V]: My Lords, David Cameron, under whose premiership the new rules came in, has admitted that the current situation is a mistake and was not intended. It is manifestly unjust and betrays those who have served our country. The ridiculous rule that people could rectify the situation by divorcing and then remarrying undermines the institution of marriage. Does this not make it entirely justifiable to overturn, or at least suspend, the policy to which the Minister refers?
On 1st December 2020 the Bishop of London asked an oral question on research into facts about domestic abuse of older people during the Covid-19 lockdown:
The Lord Bishop of London [V] : My Lords, as the Minister has commented, at present, we only collect data on those aged between 60 and 74. While she is making a commitment to work with the ONS to collect data on those aged over 74, will she commit to removing this age limit so we can highlight the experience of this older demographic?
On 22nd October Lord Kennedy of Southwark asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the role of alms houses in the provision of housing for the elderly.” The Bishop of London asked a further question:
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I declare my interests as stated in the register. The Church of England continues to provide excellent almshouses provision as a support to older people through its charities. There are over 30,000 almshouses in the UK and more than 1,000 new ones have been built in the last decade. Another 750 are in the pipeline, providing places of flourishing and support for the elderly. However, the complexities of the buildings themselves prohibit modern building standards being achieved. Will the Minister comment on whether Her Majesty’s Government will provide grants for local almshouse charities to upgrade their facilities within the complex planning frameworks associated with these buildings?
On 16th September 2020 Lord Kennedy of Southwark asked the Government “what plans they have to ensure that any changes to the planning system will improve (1) building standards, (2) safety, (3) environmental impacts, and (4) the well-being of residents.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the latest English housing survey reveals that only 9% of our housing stock has key disability accessibility features. Disability in old age is frequent, and with the ONS estimating that one in four people will be aged 65 or over by 2050 it is vital that we cater for what we are going to need.
On 29th July Baroness Gale asked Her Majesty’s Government “what plans they have to ensure that any data collected on domestic abuse includes the abuse of people over the age of 74.” The Rt Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, asked a follow up question, focusing onhow faith communities could become part of a solution to domestic abuse.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I have sad personal experience of a family situation where the perpetrator of the abuse was an older person, and we are all fearful that lockdown may have led to an increase in such instances. In that context, I am pleased that my diocese of Rochester is the first in the Church of England to establish a strategic partnership with the White Ribbon Campaign. In a world where such abuse, especially when it involves older people, often remains hidden, will the Minister commit to meeting with Members of these Benches, and perhaps other faith leaders, to discuss how the Domestic Abuse Bill’s guidance might empower faith communities to be part of the solution?
On 10th June Baroness Kennedy of Cradley asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the impact of cancelled medical operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic”. The Rt Revd James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle asked a follow up question, focusing on routine GP health checks for those over 75.
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, given the disproportionate effect of Covid-19 on those aged over 75 and the likely knock-on effects of cancelled operations, will the Minister take steps to encourage the reintroduction of routine GP health checks among people in this age group which, understandably, have been largely suspended during the pandemic?
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