Nigel Waterson, chairman of the Equity Release Council has called for action to deal with barriers to growth in the equity release sector.
Speaking at the Retirement Income Solutions Forum in London on Wednesday (15 May) after the latest labour market figures from the Office for National Statistics showed a record 980,000 over-65s are still in employment, Waterson said the equity release market is growing thanks to better information about the choices people have to fund their retirement and thanks also to innovation in the industry to meet older people’s changing needs.
However, he said: “Building on this growth requires decisive action to overcome the knowledge and policy vacuum that continues to linger – despite the progress achieved.
“Equity release can help to ensure a comfortable and stress-free older age as part of intelligent forward planning for retirement. The recent House of Lords report – Ready for Ageing? – suggested as much and called on the government and industry to work together to boost the growing confidence in equity release.
“An obvious way forward is the awareness campaign that ministers are mooting about paying for long term care. The Council is also working to bring together experts from industry, policy and government to explore how equity release can help public policy to serve our ageing population. However we believe that a further commitment is needed to establish a true departmental home for equity release.
“At the moment no single department brings together all aspects of equity release – as a financial service, a resource for older people and a method for funding retirement or social care. Our discussions involve the Department of Health, the Treasury, the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions. They all have a distinctive role in the sector. Yet there is little evidence of a coherent approach and a distinct lack of joined-up government.”
He added: “We believe the Treasury has a crucial role and is the logical choice to take departmental responsibility for equity release, bringing together the various public policy aspects under one roof. Otherwise the policy vacuum will continue in Whitehall and Westminster regardless of public awareness of the benefits of equity release.”