Calls for action on developments of housing with care

Nick Sanderson, ARCO chair

The housing with care sector is calling for urgent action to stop the country from falling further behind in the delivery of new social care models.

Investors, providers and parliamentarians argue that during the pandemic retirement villages or extra care housing have demonstrated they can combine effective shielding of older people with the provision of flexible onsite care and support to keep residents active and socially connected.

They believe housing with care schemes fill the gap between homecare and care homes, taking the pressure off and complementing these more established forms of support for older people.

Approximately 0.6% of older people live in housing with care developments in the UK, while the figure is 5% or more in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and USA.

Before the pandemic, the UK housing with care sector was set to deliver 125,000 additional units by 2030, equating to infrastructure investment of £40bn. However, due to increased uncertainty in the economy and housing market, there is a risk delivery of units could be £6bn lower by 2025.

To ensure that growth does not stall, the sector has developed a housing with care growth action plan.

It wants government to boost consumer confidence by implementing announced – but not yet enacted – reforms to create clarity on fee structures and consumer protection; enable a flexible approach to tenure models to provide greater choice to customers; and reduce planning uncertainty by clarifying the status of housing with care in the system.

In addition, a handful of MPs have tabled an early day motion on the role of housing with care settings. The motion calls for the ‘significant expansion’ of the model and wants government to promote measures that will ensure growth of the sector.

Bob Blackman MP, who tabled the motion, said: ‘We need more retirement communities to help keep people out of care homes for longer and to reduce pressures on the NHS. I hope that many of my colleagues will support this call.’

Nick Sanderson, Associated Retirement Community Operators chair and Audley Group chief executive, said: ‘The need to reform the social care sector is unarguable. The government must not miss this opportunity to create systemic change rather than papering over the cracks of a system that is broken.

‘It is living in unsuitable housing, particularly as people age, that places intolerable pressure on the NHS and social care systems. This pressure has been building for decades. Housing with care is a model that is proven to work; not least in keeping people safe in the current pandemic.’

A survey of investors by CBRE has found they would be more likely to invest if there was more clarity around housing with care in the planning system.