Integrated retirement communities ‘effective and efficient’ in care delivery

Michael Voges

The government is being urged to reduce policy barriers and make integrated retirement communities (IRCs) a core part of the future of social care.

Ahead of the government’s white paper on social care, which is due to be published before the end of the year, Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) said such communities were essential to preventing the UK’s social care system from collapsing and could help reduce the care staff shortage by 60,000 if the sector was given the backing to grow.

Its Putting the ‘care’ in Housing-with-Care report said support could be provided more effectively and efficiently in IRCs due to staff giving care to residents on-site and not needing to travel in between visits.

The document compared care and support requirements of people living in IRCs with those living in dispersed family homes. For a typical IRC with 200 people living there, 16 fewer care staff were needed than if the same levels of support were provided in the wider community.

Its research also showed 97% of domiciliary care agencies run by ARCO members were rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), compared to 88% of homecare companies more widely.

There are roughly 70,000 IRC homes in the UK compared to 456,000 care home beds and 444,000 retirement housing units, which ordinarily do not offer care provision and have fewer facilities than IRCs.

ARCO predicts if 250,000 over-65s were to be living in an IRC by the end of the decade, 20,000 fewer care staff would be needed – rising to 60,000 if the UK matched New Zealand, Australia and the US by having 6% of over-65s living in a retirement community. Only 0.6% of the over 65 population in the UK live in an IRC.

The representative body said its research highlighted the need to expand the provision of IRCs and is calling on the government to set up the cross-department task force on housing with care and to include measures to expand the segment in the forthcoming white paper.

Michael Voges, ARCO executive director, said: ‘Our country is facing huge workforce challenges in social care, and if a sector can provide high-quality care with tens of thousands fewer staff, we should be doing everything we can to boost that sector and free up staff to so desperately needed by other parts of the social care system.’

Damian Green MP

Damian Green MP, chair of the all party group for longevity, said: ‘What this report demonstrates is that, as well as providing care to the highest standards, IRCs are effective and efficient in the way they deliver this care, and free up care staff to focus on those who most their help.

‘As the publication of the government’s social care white paper draws nearer, we’ve got to ensure there is a central place for IRCs in our future social care landscape.’

Natalie Reed, interim head of inspection at the CQC, said: ‘It is vitally important that throughout the social care system we strive towards the highest quality of care, so I am pleased that this report demonstrates the vast majority of care agencies run by ARCO’s members are rated “good” or “outstanding”.

‘High-quality care is so important for the health and wellbeing of residents, and for giving them security and peace of mind. That has never been the case more than during the pandemic.’