The coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on our social care system and forced us to reflect on the fact that we need to develop new models of care.
There is a huge gap in the current social care landscape for housing and care options that sit between care homes, and people receiving care in homes that may no longer suit their needs. For older people without acute care needs, the UK needs to grow the provision of models that enable them to live independently for as long as possible: with onsite care and support if needed, boosting health and wellbeing, reducing pressure on the NHS and strengthening social connection.
That’s why ARCO is calling for the swift establishment of a cross-government Housing with Care Task Force to accelerate the growth of the housing-with-care sector. Backed by a range of high-profile supporters, we believe a Task Force is the best mechanism through which barriers to growth can be identified, and recommendations for change made. Only by working together can we establish new options that compliment and extend the existing social care landscape in the UK.
Why do we need a Housing with Care Task Force?
During the coronavirus outbreak, housing-with-care settings have shown they can effectively shield older people while continuing to provide the best standards of onsite care and support. In addition, there is strong evidence demonstrating the positive role that housing-with-care plays in:
- Helping people lead healthier lives, reducing NHS pressures and lowering social care costs
- Tackling the loneliness epidemic by boosting social connection
- Strengthening the housing market for all generations
Despite this, only 0.6% of over-65s have the opportunity to live in a housing-with-care in the UK, compared to 5-6% in New Zealand, Australia and the US. While there are 444,000 retirement housing units and 456,000 care home beds in the UK, only 70,000 housing-with-care units exist.
Our sector’s vision is for 250,000 people to live in housing with care by 2030, which would result in turnover of over £70bn and £5.6bn in savings for the NHS and social care.
But to achieve this we need to act now. By exploring potential areas for change, including sector-specific legislation on fees and regulation, clarity in the planning system, and new tenure models, the Task Force would help propel the sector closer to the levels of provision seen in other countries – where the legal and regulatory framework is much stronger.
Why does it need to be cross-government?
The housing-with-care sector cuts across numerous Government departments. For example, care regulation and market shaping is centred in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), while planning guidance and tenure reform is the remit of the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). At the same time, consumer protection and regulation sits with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Unleashing the housing-with-care sector will require cross-government collaboration, bringing together different policy areas, and boosting a sector complementing the current social care landscape of care homes and domiciliary care.
What policy proposals need to be looked at?
There are three key areas for reform that need to be examined by the Task Force, with clear policy solutions developed for each. These are:
Sector-specific legislation: The lack of sector-specific legislation for housing-with-care results in less protection for consumers and uncertainty for operators. ARCO recommends that the Law Commission’s proposals for sector-specific legislation on fees and regulation are implemented. In addition, given that the leasehold system is not ideally suited to the expansion of housing-with-care, specific tenure models need to be developed which focus on services and operation.
Clarity in the planning system: It is currently much harder to build housing-with-care than care homes due to a lack of definition in the planning system. This needs to change through clear definition and categorisation of housing-with-care.
Funding options for affordable housing-with-care provision: While the majority of customers in the housing-with-care sector will have access to housing equity to be able to fund their move into a housing-with-care community, it is essential that the model remains an option suitable for all older people, regardless of their means or housing wealth.