Research into the impact of COVID-19 last year on retirement villages and extra care housing, highlights in what ways the housing-with-care sector’s response may have benefited residents.
The RE-COV Study report was officially launched at the Housing LIN’s HAPPI Hour Webinar on 29th April. The study was undertaken by St Monica Trust in partnership with the Housing LIN and funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust.
38 operators took part in the RE-COV survey, submitting completed questionnaires between 16 December 2020 and 16 February 2021; 58% were ECH, 24% were RV, and 18% were operators of both RV&ECH. As a group they were providing 62 RVs and 387 ECH schemes for older people, with altogether more than 25,864 residents. This represents around 41% of the known retirement village market, and 33% of the extra care housing market.
According to the report, Retirement Village and Extra Care Housing scheme operators in England were ‘successful in protecting and supporting their residents during the pandemic’. In particular, this was evidenced by:
- The overall lower than expected proportion of RE-COV survey participants’ residents who died from COVID-19 in comparison to people with the same age profile living in the general population in England.
- The positive effects of the lengths that operators and staff took to help support residents’ activities of daily living, social engagement, community and personal activities.
The study also highlighted the favourable experience of many residents living in Retirement Villages and Extra Care Housing during the pandemic. Positive outcomes for residents included high levels of feeling safe, supported and comforted, knowing other people were around, plus enjoyment from organised outdoor activities.
The recommendations made in the study as to how some of the major challenges and difficulties faced by operators could be overcome are:
- A shared awareness and understanding of the housing-with-care model (including a widely publicised and consistently used legal definition), which reflects its important role in the broader care sector and the extent of the frailty, health and care needs they provide for.
- The inclusion of the housing-with-care sector in all relevant policy and guidance.
- Government rules and guidance being developed in consultation with experts, communicated clearly and consistently, with realistic and practical notice periods to implement them.
- The provision of better access to funding to support large financial deficits incurred by Retirement Villages and Extra Care Housing due to the pandemic as well as consistent processes for funding across local authorities.
- Flexibility built into contracts for commissioned services so that they cover essential costs of additional staffing, if need arises.
- The importance of physical design considerations in keeping schemes and individual apartments well-ventilated, plus providing appropriate space to enable social distancing and access to outdoor spaces or balconies.
Michael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO, said, ‘The past year has seen an overwhelming vindication of the housing-with-care model. Despite the huge challenges presented by the pandemic, housing-with-care has performed brilliantly in keeping their residents safe, supporting them to stay active and independent and in supporting the wider health and social care system.
‘It is time for more older people to have the opportunity to benefit from the safety, security and supported independence which housing-with-care provides.’
CEO of the Dunhill Medical Trust, Susan Kay, said, ‘We’re really pleased to have been able to support this work. It’s vital that organisations have the opportunity to share their experiences and successes – as well as the challenges – so that systemic improvements can be made in the future.’
Visit the Housing LIN website to read the report in full.