The recent event at Farrow Court, the excellent housing complex run for older people by Ashford Borough Council, illustrates what can be done when you treat housing not just as an important police area in itself, but as a key which can unlock the door to other desirable outcomes. In this case, it not only gives decent housing to older people who need some support, but also the likelihood of a healthier and happier old age.
This is not just an issue of importance to Ashford, although with a rapidly growing elderly population we need to be very aware of its importance. It combines two of the big issues which national Government has to grapple with; the needs of older people and the links between good care and good health. By 2023 nearly a quarter of the Borough’s population will be over 65, so these needs can only grow.
Farrow Court, with both its general housing accommodation and its specialist units dealing with those suffering with dementia and those with learning difficulties, makes a positive difference to the lives of the people living there. But it also makes an unseen difference to the quality of healthcare we all have, by diverting people away from the A and E at the William Harvey who do not need to be there.
As well as Farrow Court the Council is taking steps to make homelessness prevention schemes more effective, not least by providing its own temporary accommodation to reduce the need to use bed and breakfast facilities for homeless families. This is not only better for the homeless, but saves the council tens of thousands of pounds every year.
I have seen Farrow Court literally grow from the ground up, as I was there to cut the symbolic first turf. It is a living symbol of what can be done here in Ashford to meet the biggest challenges of our times.