Catherine Glenn is Project Manager at Housing Support for Older People Belfast, which is run by the charity Belfast Central Mission (BCM). The project works across Greater Belfast to support people aged 55 and older who are struggling with independent living to enable them to remain in their own homes.
In her guest blog for Life Law NI, Catherine tells us about how the project can help older people to remain independent:-
What is Housing Support for Older People?
As people are living longer and the aging population continues to expand, a greater number of older people are striving to hold onto their independence within their own homes. Throughout life, people’s housing needs often change.
The Housing Support project is fully flexible and provides a range of free support for older people including assistance with benefits, debt, housing issues, home safety, home maintenance, homelessness and accessing services in the community. Choice is central to the project and all clients will be treated with equality, respect and dignity.
Who runs Housing Support for Older People?
The project is run by Belfast Central Mission (BCM), one of Northern Ireland’s oldest charities. Established in 1889, BCM recently celebrated 125 years of caring for disadvantaged and socially excluded people throughout Belfast and Northern Ireland. BCM is an agency of the Methodist Church in Ireland but we support people in need, irrespective of their religious, ethnic or other background.
BCM’s diverse projects aim to meet the needs of the whole person, whether spiritual, emotional, social and physical. Our projects are based in Belfast, North Down and Ards, and Armagh and Dungannon and involve approx imately 800+ beneficiaries each year with an additional 3,000 who benefit from our Christmas programme. Projects include:
- Parent Support
- Therapeutic Counselling for vulnerable care leavers
- Floating Support & Supported Housing for vulnerable young people preparing to live independently
- Residential care and Housing Support services for older people, including support for those with dementia
- Christmas Programme – toys & food for children/older people
How can the Housing Support Project assist me?
The project can help with a wide variety of issues, offering advice and both emotional and practical support. We have also been able to assist clients with re-housing, and improving the energy efficiency of their homes. We have great links in the community, and if we can’t sort out a particular issue, we will signpost our service users to the right organisation to help them. The project has its own handyman service which can carry out minor repairs to clients’ home such as changing locks.
Our service is designed to meet the needs of older people in the community. Staff from the project will meet with them in the comfort of their own homes to assess what support they require. We very much respect the choice which many older people make to remain independent in their own home and BCM support packages are tailored to enable this to happen, when possible.
One of Housing Support’s recent clients was Mary (name changed) who had to move house after experiencing intimidation. Mary’s support worker was able to advocate on her behalf to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. Together they viewed potential flats and her support worker assisted her with the practical side of moving home. Mary said, “I’d recommend the people from BCM because they are so good and helpful whenever they take on your case. This is something everybody should know about, people who are in trouble can be helped and there’s no one more helpful than my girl who looked after me.”
The project can offer support initially up to two years, but this can be extended for those who will always need a level of housing support to remain living in their own homes. The service is offered free of charge and is totally confidential. Service users contribute to the project via the service user forum, and are welcome to meet up for outings and trips which take place several times a year. BCM also runs a programme of community services for older people in Belfast including Befriending, a weekly Lunch Club and monthly Tea Dances.
People can refer themselves, and referrals are also welcome from family members, housing officers, social workers and other professionals.