Moving on from the pandemic – what can we learn to drive improvement in older people’s housing?

Two years ago, we heard reports about a new virus in China, which then rapidly became reports in Italy and other countries, and then hit the UK. All of a sudden, our daily lives changed, our ways of working changed, people were frightened, lacked certainty and many felt isolated.

For the 5,000 residents living in our older people’s housing properties, the impact of the crisis was felt particularly acutely. Whilst we use terms like sheltered housing, extra care and housing with care to describe these services, what the last two years has really demonstrated, is that it’s all about people. Everything we do is about providing safe homes and welcoming communities for older people and, for me, the strongest lesson from the last two years is all about how we listen to, understand and then act upon what they tell us they need and want, so we can provide the right homes and the best service for them.

During the lockdown we made thousands of wellbeing calls to our customers to keep in touch with them and help them access support. This ranged from referrals to our tenancy coaches, help accessing food banks and mental health services, and time spent ensuring they felt able to ask and get the help they needed.

We gave our team a series of questions to ask as a part of their everyday conversations, so we could understand not only how people were coping, but also have a clearer picture of their home, community and how our services supported them. We have used this rich information to create an action plan for every scheme, responding to the points raised by the people who live in them. These plans are helping me to further develop our Independent Living strategy and ensure our customers are at the heart of our plans.

I was also proud to give evidence to the TAPPI Inquiry last year. Indeed, technology has an increasing role to play. In 2020-2021 we installed new digital warden call systems in 23 schemes, providing older people with a fast, reliable system which has many added benefits. We spent time sitting with people to demonstrate the system, walking them through the controls and spending all the time they needed to feel confident using it. Seeing people who had never used any tech devices before becoming the most prolific users of the system, has been fantastic. And the data collected shows people are using it to make video calls to each other, maintaining friendships even when locked down and unable to physically meet.

The most important outcome from all that we have experienced is about how we personalise our services, understanding that one size does not fit all. We have a diverse customer group and what works in one scheme may not work in another. It’s time for creativity and thought, working with our customers to make their homes and communities the most welcoming and desirable places to live.

The next steps are to look at how we can increase engagement locally, and then we will use all these collective views to feed into our investment and service development, management reporting, strategy and decision making. I want to have customers involved as much as possible in creating our services and offer; they are the experts in their lives and their homes, so how can we, as a sector, make informed decisions without hearing their voice?

This blog for the Housing LIN is based on Francis’ presentation at HQN’s recent Housing and Ageing Population conference.

If you found this blog of interest, you may also like to read the findings from the St Monica Trust/Housing LIN RE-COV survey on the impact of the first year of the pandemic on the retirement villages and extra care housing sectors.

Find out more about the TAPPI Inquiry.

And lastly, if you would like to find out more about how the Housing LIN can provide you with bespoke support, please email us at: or look at our consultancy webpage.


Posted on by Darren Clarke

great post Francis & Housing LIN

Add your comment

Leave this field empty