• March 22, 2016


‘the old will not put up much of a fight so we’ll use them for a dry run’

From April ‘means testing’ is to be introduced for public sector sheltered housing.

Here’s an extract from the Department of Infrastructure press release with quotes from Minister Phil Gawne and his member for Housing Chris Thomas:

“The current system for the allocation of public sector sheltered housing, which was last reviewed in 2002, focuses mainly on residency and does not take into account the financial circumstances of the applicant.

The Department of Infrastructure published the responses to the public consultation on its specific proposals last autumn, with respondents broadly in favour of the changes.

Infrastructure Minister Phil Gawne MHK said: ‘The modernisation of the system will promote greater fairness and will allow Government to better target its resources. Sheltered housing is more costly to provide and maintain than general public sector accommodation and is consequently more heavily subsidised from the public purse.’

He added: ‘Some people who currently access public sector sheltered housing are property owners or have recently sold a home and have significant financial assets. It is clearly not acceptable or sustainable to continue to provide substantially subsidised low cost housing to older people who have the means to pay for a suitable alternative in the private sector.’

There are provisions within the new criteria to assist people who are not eligible for public sector sheltered housing because of their financial circumstances, but whose needs cannot be met in the private sector. Access to public sector sheltered housing can still be allowed, but rental costs will be more aligned with the private sector.

Chris Thomas MHK, Department of Infrastructure Member with responsibility for Housing, commented: ‘The prioritisation process being introduced in April forms part of a wider five-year housing policy review that was agreed by Tynwald in November 2013 and developed in conjunction with the current sheltered housing providers. Public sector investment is not harmed and one benefit might be that private and third sector investment in older persons housing of various types is increased.’

Basically if you strip out all the ‘faff’ what they are saying is the days when we could dish out public sector shelter housing regardless of means are over.

What it doesn’t say indeed scrupulously avoids is whether this is a precursor to means testing for public sector housing generally something they probably would not dare try this close to an election. Nor does it say if the means testing is retrospective and if any of the close relatives of MHK/MLCs now safely ensconced in sheltered housing not to mention the odd sitting member will also have their accounts looked at.

Note the section which says:

‘Access to public sector sheltered housing can still be allowed, but rental costs will be more aligned with the private sector.’

Is this going to be applied retrospectively in the interests of that ‘fairness’ Phil and Chris are wittering on about.

I’m a great believer in the principle of ‘fairness’ espoused by Minister Gawne and its clear that you can’t carry on the old system indefinitely particularly when you need to give millions of pounds away to private sector businesses!

But it seems a tad unfair if someone is denied accommodation from April while the proverbial ‘Ivor Nestegg’ has nipped in beforehand with his savings and gold plated pension intact. Its also ageist in that this move is focused on a specific sector of the community – who know there may be a human rights based discrimination argument here!

Returning to the broader issue of social housing is the longer term a broader agenda? It seems slightly imbalanced to target the elderly requiring sheltered housing and not have a broader strategy. Perhaps the thinking is the old will not put up much of a fight so we’ll use them for a dry run!

Photo: The benefits of community living at a lonely time for the elderly in life may soon be denied to many old people because of the ‘means test’.


Issued by: The Mannin Branch Celtic League



The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries including our own Mannin branch. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues

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