CHAPTER 4: INFORMATION AND ADVICE
Older people should receive information and advice in time to make the best decisions about their housing and support.
4.1 This strategy recognises the importance of choice, through the delivery of a range of housing and housing-related support options to those older people who need them. However, it is not enough that this support exists. We need to ensure that older people know about the housing and support services that are available and how to get them. This is particularly important for home owners, who don't have a landlord to turn to for housing advice or help with accessing other services, such as adaptations.
4.2 Good information empowers people to take a more active role in directing their care and support. Many older people receive significant amounts of support through informal networks of family and friends, and their advice can be important in reaching decisions about issues such as moving home and seeking adaptations or preventative support services. However, we believe that awareness can be increased through the provision of high quality information and advice services. There is a role for national information services, but there is also a clear need for local, contextualised information and advice. There are already many good information and advice services in Scotland, which are not always well publicised, and some of these are specifically targeted at older people. However, we believe there may be scope to extend existing networks, including those provided by older people themselves, to increase provision of advice on housing and support for older people.
4.3 Many older people do not access benefits and support, due to issues such as stigma, lack of knowledge and difficulties with mobility or communication. Some people are anxious about means testing, and the complexity of the benefits system can be daunting. Ensuring that older people receive the benefits to which they are entitled can considerably improve their quality of life.
4.4 Although use of technology and the internet is increasing, older people currently have lower levels of internet usage than the rest of the population. This will change over time, but other sources of information and advice still need to be available. Many older people particularly value face to face advice or advice by telephone. Services which undertake home visits are particularly important for people, who are unable to travel or who live in remote areas.
Case study: Older People's Advice Service
Link Housing Association established the Older People's Advice Service ( OPAS) to combat poverty and financial exclusion, by improving take-up of older people's benefits. It operates in several areas of Central Scotland, with particular emphasis on people who have health problems; are housebound; or who live in remote areas. A pilot is also being undertaken with tenants of Glasgow Housing Association.
OPAS aims to ensure that older people are given an opportunity to claim the benefits and get the support they need. To overcome barriers, such as stigma, lack of knowledge and difficulties with mobility or communication, OPAS takes its service directly to older people, through personally addressed mail-shots, followed by telephone calls and home visits. A named Welfare Rights Officer deals with the person throughout the process and can provide referrals to other services if needed.
gained over £9 million of benefit income for older people,
since it was established in 2005, and dealt with 6,600 clients. It
has won a number of awards, including the Herald Society Award for
Service Provider of the Year (working with 65+ age group) in 2010.
A Social Return on Investment study in 2010 found that every
£1 invested realised £27.53 in outputs.
What we will do
4.5 We will help older people to receive the information and advice they need by:
- Reviewing information and advice services. We will examine services which provide information and advice on housing and support for older people, taking account of existing advice provision to ensure the best use is made of information about the opportunities available to older people.
- Publicising information sources. We will continue to publicise existing sources of information, such as the House Key,  the Care Information Service,  the Age Scotland Helpline,  Citizens Advice Bureaux and Citizens Advice Direct. 
- Improving online information. We will review and, where necessary, develop online information on housing and support for older people on the House Key website.
Older people should receive advice that considers their housing needs in a holistic way, taking account of the full range of options that is open to them.
4.6 The housing options approach  looks at all of an individual's housing options and choices in the widest sense, focusing on early intervention and all possible housing tenures. It can also cover other areas, such as debt and health issues. The housing options approach has been applied with homeless people, focusing on preventing homelessness and seeking other outcomes for them. We believe that the same principles could benefit other groups with particular housing needs, including older people, by providing intensive advice and support at times of transition, e.g. a move to a new home.
Case study: East Renfrewshire Council's Private Housing Officer
Since 2010, East Renfrewshire Council has been providing a dedicated housing options, adaptation, information and advice service to older and disabled people, mainly in the private sector.
The service provides a holistic approach to housing, tailored to each individual. A dedicated officer provides individually tailored information and advice on the full range of available housing options; signposting to sources of financial information; practical assistance in identifying suitable housing; assisting in the planning of new housing development projects to meet the disability-related housing needs of future occupants; developing records of accessible properties; and arranging provision of housing adaptations.
Through the provision of information, advice and practical
assistance, many residents have been able to stay in their own
homes for longer or relocate to more suitable housing.
Case study: Ownership Options in Scotland
Ownership Options provides a unique free service, open to older people and disabled people in Scotland. Ownership Options helps people to find 'the right house in the right place', working across all housing tenures. No-one is ever turned away. The service is funded by a Scottish Government grant.
Recent initiatives include the establishment of 'Access Ownership' (a shared ownership programme run in partnership with the Link Group); work with private developer, Lomond Homes to offer shared ownership and part exchange; and development of 'Ownership Angels', where wealthy individuals or businesses can invest in a housing solution for a disabled person.
Through its work, Ownership Options helps to reduce the impact
of delayed discharge from hospital and allows people to stay in
their own homes and communities, as an alternative to inappropriate
residential care. A Social Return on Investment study on the
casework service has shown a return of £10.72 for every
What we will do
4.7 We will help to ensure older people can receive information and advice about all the housing and support options available to them:
- Making choice matter. We will work with local authorities to pilot the housing options approach for older people and, if successful, promote its implementation more widely across Scotland.
Scottish National Standards for Information and Advice Providers
Older people should receive information that is of a high quality to enable them to make the best decisions about their housing and support.
4.8 We are working to improve the standard of information and advice provision in Scotland through promotion of the Scottish National Standards for Information and Advice Providers.  The National Standards provide a framework for information and advice providers to develop and deliver effective and efficient services.
4.9 In line with the Standards, advisers should be trained in communication skills, so that they can meet the needs of older people with particular communication needs, such as those with hearing or sight loss or from black and minority ethnic communities. Plain English should be used, but information and advice needs to be tailored to each individual's particular situation, including through provision in other languages, Braille, Moon, British sign language on DVD or recorded voice where appropriate. This type of personalised contact, and support and time to make choices, is especially important, where major life changing decisions are being made, such as moving from the family home. Particularly, in rural areas, older people are often dependent on home visits for information, where it is important to have locally known and trusted advisers with the ability to signpost or refer people to other sources of information and advice.
What we will do
4.10 We will help to improve the advice available to older people by:
- Enhancing the quality of advice. We will encourage organisations providing information and advice to older people to gain accreditation under the Scottish National Standards for Information and Advice Providers.
Our vision for 2016 is that there will be a comprehensive range of information and advice services covering housing and related support, which is accessible to older people throughout Scotland.
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government St Andrew's House Regent Road Edinburgh EH1 3DG