A coalition of more than thirty charities, older people’s representatives, policymakers, academics and private sector and civil society leaders has today urged the Prime Minister to take immediate action to expand new options that sit between the traditional care solutions of care homes and receiving care at home.
In a rare sign of agreement in the often-contentious debate on social care reform, the coalition point out that ‘just as previous decades saw the expansion of the care home and home care sectors, there is now a new consensus that the 2020s need to be the decade of housing with care’. This young but growing sector goes beyond traditional sheltered housing and combines independent living for older people with the provision of onsite, CQC-registered care, support and a wide range of communal services and facilities. The sector has successfully shielded older people during the COVID-19 pandemic, improves the health, wellbeing and social connection of residents and reduces pressure on the NHS by cutting down GP and hospital visits.
These benefits are being recognised by a growing number of older people, with a recent survey of housing-with-care operators finding that 85% had experienced a significant rise in interest compared to the same point last year. Despite this, just 0.6% of over-65s in the UK currently have the opportunity to live in a housing-with-care development, compared to at least 5-6% in New Zealand, Australia and the US.
To meet the changing needs of older people, the letter says that while ‘proposals for social care funding reform have now been pushed back until next year, we say that expanding social care provision must start now’. This could be done at low-cost, say the coalition, through the formation of a new task force which brings together different Government departments and is able to ‘join up planning policy, funding (for those with moderate means) and a regulatory framework’ to safeguard older people’s interests.
This would pave the way to achieve the Vision 2030 goals of the sector’s representative body, ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators), which aims for 250,000 older people to live in housing-with-care by the end of the decade.
Nick Sanderson, Chair of ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators), said, ‘When it comes to social care, it is clear that more of the same is not going to suffice. Alongside care homes and homecare, we need to quickly expand the housing-with-care options available to older people, so they can live independently while having access to the best care and support. The COVID-19 crisis has only made this more urgent.
‘We know that finding a solution to the social care funding question has been pushed back to next year, but the expansion of social care provision must start now. The Government can take the low-cost yet transformative step of forming a Housing-with-Care Task Force that removes the barriers on the sector’s growth and re-shapes our social care landscape for generations to come.’
Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive of the International Longevity Centre UK, said, ‘The research on our ageing population is clear: while longevity brings huge challenges, it also represents a golden opportunity to transform society so that our increasing number of years alive are spent in good health.
‘At the centre of this transformation needs to be a reconceptualisation of how we care for and support older people, so that our social care system more closely matches different levels of need and enables people to make the most of their extra years.’
Visit the ARCO website to read the open letter in full.
This month, The Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) launched its new Housing with Care Grey Paper, which features essays and policy recommendations from 14 high-profile authors.