Gillian Keegan says it’s “One minute to midnight on social care” in first Ministerial speech

Housing-with-care must play crucial role in upcoming social care reforms, says new Care Minister
  • Housing-with-care must play crucial role in upcoming social care reforms, says new Care Minister
  • Keegan addressed large audience at the ARCO What Next? 2021 Conference in London

Gillian Keegan has used her first speech as the new Care Minister to urge that it’s “One minute to midnight on social care” – and that innovations like housing-with-care have a crucial role to play as the clock ticks down.

Addressing a large audience at the What Next? 2021 conference hosted by ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators), Keegan said “prevention was better than cure” and that the Government’s forthcoming social care reforms would focus on housing as a way to keep older people independent, healthy and well for longer, and connected to their local community.

In her speech, the Minister recognised the vast benefits brought by housing-with-care, which combines independent living for older people through them renting or owning their own flat, together with 24/7 onsite staffing, social care for those who need it, and a wide range of communal services and facilities.

To expand housing-with-care provision (just 0.6% of over-65s currently live in this kind of setting in the UK), Keegan committed to cross-Government working with the new Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, now spearheaded by Michael Gove. The Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing from the same Department, Eddie Hughes, recently said housing-with-care contributes to levelling up across communities.

ARCO and the housing-with-care sector have been calling for a task force to be set up to put rocket boosters on provision, focusing on priorities including planning reform and consumer protection regulation.

Keegan’s speech came on a day when ARCO unveiled a universal new term for the housing-with-care sector, ‘Integrated Retirement Community’, to overcome the confusion and uncertainty that has plagued the sector and prevented older people from grasping their housing and care options.

‘Integrated Retirement Community’ clearly communicates the integration of social care and services, and that housing-with-care settings are integrated with the wider community.


Speaking at the ARCO conference, Gillian Keegan MP, Minister of State for Social Care and Mental Health, said:

“It’s one minute to midnight for social care.

“Housing-with-care is a pivotal part of our adult social care reform vision. It allows people to choose where they want to live, with whom, and how they can best be supported. Through it, we are able to stay connected to the community.  

“We in Government are committed to increasing the range of options [for older people], including extra care housing, which contributes to levelling up across communities and the whole country.”

Michael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO, said:

“We were delighted to welcome the new Minister for Care to make her first speech in the role at the ARCO Conference, where she set out precisely why Integrated Retirement Communities have such a key role to play in the future of our social care system.

“The Minister was exactly right to point out the health and wellbeing benefits brought by Integrated Retirement Communities, and the way they enable older people to maintain independence and their own front door.

“We’re pleased to hear the Minister will be collaborating with other departments to help expand our sector, and urge her to set up the cross-Government task force that we have been calling for to overcome the policy barriers holding back growth.”



Photograph: Telling Photography Ltd 

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- Notes for Editors-

What are Integrated Retirement Communities?

Integrated Retirement Communities, otherwise known as housing-with-care, offer older people the opportunity to live independently in their own home as part of a wider community. Lifestyle, wellbeing and care services are available to support people’s independence and aspirations. Integrated Retirement Communities are run by a range of not-for-profit and private operators, with two-thirds of the sector being affordable or social rent. 

How are these communities integrated?

Apartment homes are available for purchase, part purchase or rent, alongside a range of choices:

  • Integrated Lifestyle: Facilities like restaurants, bars, gyms, cinemas, community halls and gardens offer optional activities and social opportunities
  • Integrated Well-being and Care: Personal and domestic care can be delivered within people’s homes if they wish.  Dedicated staff teams are on site 24/7
  • Integrated with Wider Communities: Connections with wider communities through family, friends, intergenerational, volunteering or leisure opportunities are valued and cherished

Associated Retirement Communities Operator (ARCO) is the main body supporting Integrated Retirement Communities across the UK, setting standards for the sector, and representing the interests of consumers and providers at national level.