Equity release: the view from across Whitehall

If there ever was a time when each government department jealously guarded its policy turf against encroaching rivals, today’s civil service know that peoples’ lives are too complex and inter-dependent to be viewed from separate silos.

So the opportunity for officials from the government departments most concerned with the role of housing equity in retirement planning to get together was gladly taken up. Policymakers from the Departments of Health, Work and Pensions, Community and Local Government, HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office met at a roundtable to discuss the findings of research by Just Retirement into consumers’ perceptions of housing equity withdrawal.

A non-attributable summary of that event (which was held under the Chatham House rule) can be found here. It was obvious from the discussion that housing equity represents an asset of considerable interest to policymakers trying to meet a range of needs, from paying for care to making up the shortfall in pensions. As spending departments face constraints on their budgets, the importance of partnerships with industry and the third sector to ensure delivery of services in the future was recognised.

At the centre of this complicated landscape, individual citizens are faced with increasing responsibility for managing their own financial futures. To help people plan for the future, it was agreed that more and better information and advice from a variety of trusted sources is needed. Many agencies will be involved in helping individuals and their families take charge of their retirement income and care needs. Central and local government, commercial providers, regulators, consumer and voluntary organisations all have a role to play. Certainty is needed about where the line is drawn between what the state will provide and what each of us must pay for, save for or insure against.

One thing is certain: the need for information and ideas to be shared as they were at this roundtable will grow in an increasingly complex public policy environment.

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