When Homeshare Co-ordinator Tim Crahart delivers presentations or talks to people about Homeshare, one of the top questions he gets asked is, ‘Is Homeshare safe?’ And rightly so, because safeguarding should be at the top of everyone’s agenda.
Homeshare comes with robust processes and good practices to ensure that it is delivered as safely and effectively as it can be – more detail on that later – but first let’s look at the problems that can happen when older people live on their own, and when younger people are forced to live in inappropriate housing.
An easy target
In 2019, Age UK’s analysis of official crime figures in England and Wales showed that an older person becomes a victim of fraud every 40 seconds. According to National Trading Standards, whilst older people account for 18 percent of the population, 85 percent of victims of doorstop scams are over 65. An older person living alone is an easy target for a scammer.
A study from 2006 conducted by the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies found that 82 percent of victims of distraction burglary were over the age of 70. Sadly, older people are often targeted because of their age, because they live on their own and, in some cases, just because they are lonely. Tim was told a story at a recent event, of an older man returning from the shops with some bags. He met some younger people who offered to give him a hand with his shopping. They helped him back home with his bags and then, while one distracted him, the other went into a room and stole from him. He realised this but still let them come back the next week. When asked why he hadn’t done anything about it and why he let them back in, he simply said he liked having the company.
The Poor Relation report in 2019 conducted by the Police and CPS found that older people are also more likely to fear becoming a victim of crime when compared to other age groups. That worry and anxiety can have a detrimental effect on their health and wellbeing, even if nothing has actually happened.
According to the NHS around a third of adults over 65 and half of people over 80 will have at least one fall a year. Whilst many will have no injuries or recover quickly, the longer the person remains on the floor, the greater the long-term effects. This could include dehydration, pneumonia, hypothermia as well as pressure sores. Living alone increases the risk of someone not being found for some time after experiencing a fall.
Alongside this are the health risks associated with loneliness and isolation. The National Institute on Ageing conducted a study which found that prolonged isolation has the same physical impact on individuals as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
When you consider the risk of crime, the impact on mental health and wellbeing as well as the risk to health due to isolation and loneliness, you have to ask yourself how safe is it for an older person to live without Homeshare?
Money worries and poor-quality accommodation
We’ve looked firstly at older people but younger people, those who can become Homesharers, also face risks.
A report in 2022 by Public Health Wales found that 30 percent of people said the cost-of-living crisis was having a negative impact on their physical health and over 43 percent said it was having a negative effect on their mental health.
The same report said that there had been a 25 percent rise in people living in temporary accommodation and a 38 per cent rise in people sleeping rough. Potential Homesharers might also be living in inappropriate or poor housing. A report from Shelter Cymru in 2021 found that a third of people in Wales are living in unsafe or unaffordable housing. The report went on to say that a quarter of people are living in homes with significant damp, mould or condensation problems.
Living sociably is a win-win for both parties and some Homesharers Householders say one of their main reasons for taking part in Homeshare, as well as a helping hand for them, is to help give a young person a safe and affordable place to live.
Homeshare is safer
All providers in the Homeshare UK network take safeguarding very seriously; it’s a key reason people choose to use the providers in the network to make a suitable and safe match for them.
Prospective Householders and Homesharers are assessed and interviewed, DBS checks are undertaken and references are requested. Family members of the older person are also typically also involved in the process. The prospective Householders and Homesharers are able to meet as many times as they need to before agreeing to a match and agreements are put in place between them to clarify expectations. By the time the match starts, people are no longer strangers. After the match has begun, it is monitored by the Homeshare Co-ordinator to ensure that everything is running safely and smoothly. A trial period at the start helps make sure everything works out.
The Homesharer provides an overnight presence in the home, reassuring the Householder and reducing anxiety. The companionship they provide also combats any loneliness and isolation the Householder may have been experiencing. They can help protect and guard against fraud whether it appears on the doorstep, online or over the phone. If a fall does occur, they can ensure a timely response, so that the impact is minimised.
In return, the Householder provides safe, secure and affordable accommodation to the Homesharer.
Because of all this, we at Homeshare UK believe that people are safer with Homeshare.
As one 95-year-old Householder said of her life before Homesharing, “In a way it’s quite frightening because you don’t know, are you going to have a fall, is something going to happen to you?”
After she was matched with a Homesharer she said, “To hear the key in the lock around about six o’clock at night is wonderful.”
That says it all.