The chairman of the Equity Release Council said that despite 17% growth in the total value of the equity release market in 2012 to £925.7m the industry still needed more support from government to raise awareness of the role equity release can play.
He 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. But 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.”
Waterson said an obvious way forward is the awareness campaign that ministers are mooting about paying for long-term care.
The Equity Release Council is working to bring together experts from industry, policy and government to explore how equity release can help public policy to serve the country’s ageing population.
But the council believes further commitment is needed to establish a true departmental home for equity release.
He said: “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.”
Waterson said the Treasury should take the lead on becoming the department which takes responsibility for equity release, bringing together the various public policy aspects under one roof.
And he added: “Otherwise the policy vacuum will continue in Whitehall and Westminster regardless of public awareness of the benefits of equity release.”