ARCO, the national body for operators of Integrated Retirement Communities (IRC) in the UK, has moved to enhance its regulatory oversight role with the appointment of a new, independent Chair for its Standards Committee.
Karen McArthur is an experienced Non-Executive Director with several high-profile board appointments and a wider portfolio of standards work with statutory regulators. She was appointed following an extensive recruitment process.
The Standards Committee oversees the ARCO Consumer Code, a set of standards for operators that go beyond minimum legal requirements to ensure transparency and high levels of consumer protection in marketing, sales, lettings and resident relations. The Code was implemented in 2015 and subsequently adapted to incorporate the recommendations of the Law Commission in 2017 relating to event fees.
The appointment of Karen McArthur comes at an exciting time for the IRC sector, following the launch by the government of the Older People’s Housing Task Force in May 2023. ARCO led the campaign for the Task Force, which is looking at how to expand the provision of specialist housing for older people.
Speaking at ARCO’s What’s Next? conference in June 2023, the Housing Minister backed ARCO’s calls for sector specific consumer regulation and for the Law Commission’s recommendations on event fees to be brought into force.
Michael Voges, ARCO’s Chief Executive, said:
“Karen’s appointment as the independent Chair of ARCO’s Standards Committee is an important signal to older people, their families and the government that ARCO is determined to push for the highest possible consumer standards in Older People’s Housing. Karen brings a vast breadth of expertise and experience, and I look forward to working with her to propel the sector forward”.
Karen McArthur, ARCO’s Standards Committee Chair, said:
“Setting, maintaining and enforcing high standards is key for consumer confidence. I’m delighted to be joining ARCO who are leading the way in this important sector. I’m impressed with their ambition and vision for Older People Housing and look forward to supporting them on their journey towards greater regulation.”
Notes to Editors
1. Integrated Retirement Communities (IRCs), sometimes known as ‘housing-with-care’ sit between mainstream housing and residential care. The key features of an Integrated Retirement Community are:
- Every resident has their own front door, kitchen and bathroom
- 24/7 onsite support
- Extensive shared facilities - frequently including lounges, restaurants, gyms, hairdressers, shops and other leisure facilities
- Optional, onsite care and support services are designed to support older people to live independently for as long as possible.
2. The ARCO Consumer Code applies to Integrated Retirement Communities in the UK that have been registered with ARCO, by ARCO Approved Operators, as well as Provisional and Prospective members of ARCO.
The Consumer Code builds upon UK consumer law to set specific, high standards for the Integrated Retirement Community sector. It is informed by regular assessments of ARCO members and by external developments, such as the Law Commission for England and Wales’ work on event fees in retirement properties.
3. ARCO Approved Operators agree to abide by the Consumer Code and the Standards and Compliance Framework. ARCO membership, therefore, means that the Integrated Retirement Community operator has agreed to go beyond the legal requirements to ensure transparency in its marketing and sales practices, providing information on fees and charges to customers promptly. The Code also sets the core levels of service provision for ARCO Members, and requires operators to treat consumers fairly.
Approved Operators are regularly assessed by ARCO to ensure that high standards are maintained. In addition, ARCO supports Members to achieve compliance by providing workshops, training, and guidance materials. Customers and Residents who believe that an Approved Operator has not complied with the Consumer Code and who have gone through the Operator's complaints process can contact ARCO to make a Complaint.
ARCO’s Standards and Regulation functions are overseen by the Standards Committee which is made up of senior officers of ARCO Approved Operators. The Committee confers Approved Operator status on Members who have achieved compliance and works to promote high standards across the ARCO membership.
The Standards Committee is responsible for overseeing the ARCO Standards programme and for the award of Approved Operator status, which shows that an operator has successfully been successfully assessed under the Consumer Code. In the event of a serious breach of the Code, the Committee has the power to issue a range of sanctions up to and including removal of Approved Operator status (meaning that the organisation could no longer be a member of ARCO).
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