Fan of The Archers on Radio 4?

We were disappointed that last Sunday’s episode used the term ‘warden controlled flat’ in the Heather Pritchard storyline. We feel it’s an old fashioned, negative and inaccurate label for what is more appropriately referred to as sheltered or retirement housing.

See below the letter that we have sent to the producers of the show.

What are your thoughts and opinions on this? Email us with your comments.

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing to you as chair of erosh, a national charity representing organisations that provide specialist housing and support services for older people. As the national consortium for older people’s sheltered housing and support, we have more than 200 member organisations across the UK. We champion the need for good quality older people’s housing and support and lobby nationally for continuous improvement and to promote good practice.

We are very keen to promote a positive image of our members’ services and were therefore concerned to hear in a recent episode of The Archers (first broadcast on Sunday 7th September) the terminology used to describe the housing they provide. In the storyline Heather Pritchard, till recently very independent, is likely to need care and support following a fall, and may not be able to remain in the long standing family home. She is reluctant to enter a care home as she wishes to remain independent, so – according to her daughter Ruth – she may need to move to a ‘warden controlled flat’. In our sector this is regarded as an old fashioned, negative and inaccurate label for what is more commonly and appropriately referred to as sheltered or retirement housing.

The story line offers a very realistic scenario faced by very many older people who, as their health and mobility decline, want to retain as much independence as possible.  We commend a sensitive exploration of such themes over what we imagine will be a developing story line as this illustrates the dilemmas and anxieties faced by very many older people and their carers today. Also it is realistic to indicate that, while some people will undoubtedly need to consider a care home at a certain point in their lives, a preferred option for many others will be specialist housing for older people. This responds to the aspiration to remain as active and independent as possible by providing accommodation in combination with a range of support services, as well as the companionship of other people. People can retain independence and control over their lives in a way which is difficult in a care home setting.

It is your terminology we are concerned about. The term ‘warden controlled’ accommodation is misleading. Sheltered housing has evolved significantly in recent decades; while some longer standing residents and others may still colloquially refer to the ‘warden’, most organisations have deliberately redesignated staff working in the services to eliminate the institutional connotations of this term and instead use terms such as scheme or estate manager. Staff roles and the whole service philosophy have developed in ways that support residents to be as active as possible (individually as well as in a community) and to take greater control over their lives and where they live. The best sheltered housing schemes are lively and vibrant communities and the idea that they are ‘controlled’  by a ‘warden’ is misleading.  

We acknowledge that all too often, older people are unclear about the distinction between care homes and various forms of sheltered housing; we are keen to ensure that people have as clear a picture as

possible of the various services and options available when making what are often critical and irreversible life choices in difficult circumstances.

Older people form a large part of The Archers ‘listenership’ and will follow this story line with interest, identifying with the characters and their dilemmas so how you portray issues and the language you use can be very influential . We therefore hope you will consider describing older people housing using more contemporary, accurate and positive terms and would be pleased to discuss with you how this might be achieved if that would be helpful.

Yours Sincerely


Rebecca Mollart – Chief Executive of erosh

Tel. 01926 410848 or 07803 176957

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