Consumer protection paramount in new housing-with-care code
-- ARCO paves the way for sector regulation with new edition of consumer code--
The representative body for the housing-with-care sector, ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators), has today launched a new edition of its standing-setting Consumer Code for members, providing the platform for the Government to introduce sector-specific regulation.
The 2021 edition of the ARCO Consumer Code, which follows previous editions published in 2015 and 2017, upholds the principles of transparency and fairness for the housing-with-care sector, building on consumer law to give customers and residents confidence that ARCO’s members achieve high levels of consumer protection in marketing, sales and lettings, and resident relations.
The Code is launched at time of renewed interest in the housing-with-care sector in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, with older people having benefited from the 24/7 onsite staffing, CQC-registered domiciliary care available, and social connections with staff and residents.
Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, ARCO has adapted its standards and compliance work to complete assessments at 56 different Retirement Communities over the last year, which together provide a home for over 6,000 residents.
ARCO’s work to guide members has evolved alongside the code, for example through a practice note on online and distance sales and marketing, and a new series of e-learning modules on different areas of ARCO compliance.
By setting high standards for housing-with-care both before and during COVID-19, the Consumer Code plays a vital role for a sector that currently lacks any specific regulation, in stark contrast to other countries where the housing-with-care sector has seen stronger growth such as New Zealand, Australia and the US. Currently, there is very little consumer protection for prospective residents in non-ARCO schemes, who are not bound by the Consumer Code.
With Ministers indicating that they are considering setting up a cross-government task force to help spur the growth of housing-with-care in the UK, the new ARCO Consumer Code provides an important benchmark for developing sector-specific regulation through this new political vehicle.
Sally Ireland, Barrister and Head of Regulation and Compliance at ARCO, said:
“The launch of the 2021 ARCO Consumer Code will help ensure the highest standards are met by all of ARCO’s housing-with-care operators, bringing confidence to consumers and residents, and creating a benchmark for sector-specific regulation.
“At ARCO we’re always re-evaluating our standards programme to support members in their vital work with older people, and the COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges that our revised code and guidance help overcome.
“We’re pleased that the Government is considering ways to help support our sector, including through a cross-department task force, which would provide the platform to build on our Consumer Code and implement consumer protection regulation.”
Jeremy Walford, Chair of the ARCO Standards Committee and Managing Director of Middleton Hall, said:
“Transparency and fairness are the key tenets of the 2021 ARCO Consumer Code, which we are proud to launch so that consumers and residents across the country can be fully confident in choosing housing-with-care.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly created challenges for the sector but we’ve risen to these, and ARCO’s standards and compliance work has adapted and evolved for our new times.
“We would now urge the Government to implement the proposal for a cross-department task force so that the policies can be put in place – including sector-specific consumer protection regulation – to transform housing-with-care provision and bring its benefits to hundreds of thousands more older people.”
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Notes to editors
- About ARCO: Founded in 2012, ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators) is the principle body representing both private and not-for-profit operators of housing-with-care schemes in the UK. ARCO’s members aim to provide housing and care solutions to an additional 150,000 people over the next 10 years. We work in three distinct areas, each vital in supporting our Members and growing the sector that helps people to live independently for longer.
- Setting the Policy Agenda: delivered through policy campaigning work with MPs, Peers, Government Ministers, Local Authorities and other key sector stakeholders to influence the future of much-needed sector specific legislation.
- Compliance & Regulation: delivered through our Consumer Code and standards framework, with continual assessments of Members to drive high standards for customer and resident experience.
- Knowledge Sharing and Best Practice: delivered through our extensive events programme, annual What Next? Conference, Network bulletins, online Knowledge Bank, and ARCO Analytics.
- About Retirement Communities/housing-with-care: Retirement Communities sit in between traditional retirement houses (which have less extensive staffing and leisure facilities), and care homes, and can be set in urban or suburban locations. There is a growing body of evidence which shows that Retirement Communities keep older people healthy, well and independent for longer – reducing the overall level of care they need and keeping them out of care homes and hospitals. Currently about 77,000 people live in Retirement Communities in the UK but this number is set to grow to 250,000 people by the end of the decade. Retirement Communities are the fastest growing form of social care provision in the UK – with demand significantly exceeding current supply. Typically consisting of individual one or two bedroom flats or houses, located in a development with similar properties, residents have access to a range of services and facilities, which will include optional on-site care, 24-hour staffing, and dining and leisure facilities, and may also include bars, gyms and craft rooms. Retirement Communities are also sometimes referred to as housing-with-care schemes, retirement villages, extra care housing, assisted living, or close care apartments.
- The benefits of Housing-with-Care: Housing-with-care has shown during the outbreak that it can help residents to self-isolate independently. A particular advantage of this form of retirement provision is that residents can access the highest levels of support from staff through care, meals, regular phone check-ins and a wide range of online activities.
More broadly, housing-with-care brings a range of great benefits to older people and our country as a whole:
- Delivering savings to the social care system: Providing social care for those with lower-level needs costs £1,222 (17.8%) less per person per year, and for those with higher-level needs £4,556 (26%) less than in other care settings.
- Boosting health and the NHS: By improving the physical and mental health of residents, costs like GP, nurse and hospital visits reduce by 38%. £5.6bn in cost savings will be made for health and social care if 250,000 over-65s live in housing-with-care by 2030
- Freeing up family homes: 562,000 bedrooms will be released to the market for all generations if the sector achieves its 2030 growth targets.
- Efficient use of land: Apartments for older people are built using up to six times less space than family homes.
- Tackling loneliness: Residents are five times as likely as non-residents to participate in social events, and four times as likely to get together with friends.
These benefits have been clearly demonstrated during the coronavirus outbreak. The provision of care, meals and support onsite has played a key role in keeping residents well and healthy. Housing-with-care has been central to cutting hospital admissions, reducing strain on the NHS and providing crucial step-down capacity once people could leave hospital.
- Our call for a Housing-with-Care Task Force: 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.