Older people under 65 often have problems in securing community care services despite often having clearly established care and support needs. It is even more difficult for people with a combination of drug and alcohol or mental health problems to access services due to the way in which support services are funded.
Tom, a 51 year old Irish man found himself homeless after the break up of his marriage. Tom is a heavy drinker and this prevents him from living independently. Tom found himself living in a hostel for homeless people. Tom attempted detoxification many times but was never able to complete one. He said that he wanted to get his drinking under control and after discussion with his key worker at the hostel asked to be referred to a supported housing project for people with alcohol problems. Tom was assessed by the project and was offered a place five months after his referral. Staff feel that since Tom first moved in there has been a marked improvement in his physical appearance and general self care, reflected in the increased tidiness of his room. Tom says he is happy where he is and enjoys having his own room. He has made friends and is happy that his drinking is more controlled. Unfortunately there is a severe lack of specialist move-on accommodation and support services for people like Tom who have complex needs. It is often difficult for older homeless people in Tom's age group to gain access to appropriate community care services.
Betty is a 71 year old woman who spent many years sleeping rough before being resettled into her own flat. Betty was involved in the resettlement process - in visiting different housing options, choosing where she wanted to live, and in planning the move. Before moving in, with support from the resettlement agency, furniture was bought and a telephone line installed. The agency supported Betty in registering with a GP and arranged support from social services. The resettlement agency ensured Betty was receiving her pension and that housing benefit was in place. Before the move, regular post-resettlement was arranged for Betty so that she would be able to cope in her new home. Since moving in, Betty has been visited each week by a support worker from the resettlement agency for support with any problems she experiences living alone, ongoing advocacy with statutory agencies, transport assistance to hospital appointments and help with reading letters. Betty was referred by the resettlement agency to a volunteer scheme for befriending support to reduce the isolation she experiences living alone. Comprehensive resettlement plans and ongoing support are critical to people like Betty to prevent their homelessness occurring.