Watch Gareth's Speech On Reducing Loneliness For The Elderly

At the Autumn Liberal Democrat Conference Gareth proposed a policy amendment that was overwhelming passed by delegates to assist the elderly moving in with relatives for companionship, or a planned move so they can be closer to their families.

This amendment was simple idea - we allow elderly people claiming housing benefit, who choose to move in with someone else, to keep a portion of that benefit.  And we also allow those elderly on very low incomes to be exempt from stamp duty, if they’re planning a move nearer to family or to downsize.

At conference Gareth explained the benefits of this policy

Firstly -- tackling loneliness.

We have a growing population of older people with complex medical needs. In the past, people tended to stay nearer to each other, and our elderly were cared for in part, by their family. 

But the fragmentation of families has left many elderly people great distances from that traditional support network.  The result is an epidemic of loneliness and overstretched social services.

We should be doing everything possible to enable elderly people to live closer to their families, by assisting a planned move through a stamp duty exemption, or allowing people to retain some of their housing benefit if they choose to move in with someone else.

I’ll give you a real world example of how this could work.  A young family in my constituency have an elderly parent with a chronic health condition requiring daily social care, who is currently living alone in a large council house some distance away. 

They’re desperate to move her nearby, but they have no room at their house and there are no one bedroom council homes in their area. 

Under this policy she could move in with the family and a portion of her benefits could be used to contribute towards the rent of a larger property they previously couldn't afford.

In return the state pays less housing benefit and social care costs naturally plummet, as the family are more involved in the day to day caring needs.  Plus she gets the regular contact with her family that we know makes a difference to quality of life and health outcomes.

The second goal is to make better use of our housing stock

The number of people living in the average house has been on the decline for over 50 years - and is set to decline even further in future. 

Today we’re at the point where 30% of households contain just one person.  Not only are we failing to build enough homes, we’re simply not using the ones we have well enough!

As we’ve seen in the recent bedroom tax report we also have a serious lack of one and two bedroom properties. We shouldn’t be forcing people to downsize to houses that don’t exist --- but instead make it easier for people to move in together!   

And finally – It reduces the housing benefit bill

By allowing older people to move in with friends and relatives and still receive a share of their housing benefit, we are immediately reducing our costs.  Furthermore, what we are paying out is going to the older person and their family, instead of a landlord. Other positive effects such as delaying or reducing the need for the person to enter a care home are also likely.


This is how Liberal Democrats create policy

The Liberal Democrats are the only major party that allow any member to attend conference and propose ideas on policy.  If they're voted on and passed they become party policy.  No other party is run more by its grassroots members.  If you're interested in shaping future policy please consider joining the Liberal Democrats

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