Labour giant Lord Blunkett throws support behind housing-with-care
Government urged to move ahead with cross-department housing-with-care task force
Former frontrunner in the Labour Cabinet, Lord Blunkett, has provided public backing for the fast-emerging housing-with-care sector, after signing up as an official Parliamentary Supporter with the sector’s representative body, ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators).
Lord Blunkett, who served as Home Secretary and Education Secretary among other top roles in the last Labour government, has recognised housing-with-care for its ability to combine independent living for older people with high-quality care and support, and vast opportunities for forming social connections.
The Peer joined forces with former Conservative Health Secretary Lord Clarke in March this year, to urge Prime Minister Boris Johnson to make the UK a world-leader in housing-with-care, and to back the idea of a cross-department task force to expand housing-with-care provision. Their joint op-ed in the Daily Express launched an open letter to the Prime Minister signed by over 40 MPs, Peers, academics, and charity and private sector leaders.
This has since been followed by the first ever Parliamentary debate on housing-with-care in July, which saw MPs from four different parties praise the sector for its performance during the COVID-19 pandemic, and call on the Government to move ahead with a housing-with-care task force.
Currently, just 0.6% of over-65s in the UK live in housing-with-care, compared to at least 5-6% in New Zealand, Australia and the US. This is despite the vast benefits that the sector brings for the health and wellbeing of older people, and the big cost savings it makes for the NHS and social care system.
Research by the not-for-profit St Monica Trust and Housing Learning and Improvement Network found that fewer housing-with-care residents died from Covid-19 (0.97%) than expected between March and December 2020, when compared with people of the same age living in the wider community (1.09%).
With increasing pressure on the Government to act to back housing-with-care, Ministers have confirmed they are considering setting up a cross-department task force to expand the sector.
Labour Peer Lord Blunkett said
“Housing-with-care has a central part to play in the future of social care for older people, combining independent living with excellent care and support, and great opportunities for staying active and socially connected.
“It is a great pity that this was not recognised in the recent announcement made by the Government, albeit, that their plan for social care is still in the process of being developed.
“I’m very pleased to become a Parliamentary Supporter for housing-with-care because it’s a sector that brings so many benefits to older people and society as a whole, not least in maintaining independent living whilst offering support when needed and reassurance for both individuals and families.
“I urge the Government to take action now to give many more older people the opportunity to live in housing-with-care, including by setting up the cross-department task force on housing-with-care that has backing across political parties.”
Michael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO, said:
“We’re delighted to have such an esteemed figure as Lord Blunkett back housing-with-care by becoming one of our official Parliamentary Supporters.
“The open letter to the Prime Minister launched in March by Lord Blunkett and Lord Clarke showed that there is great cross-party support for housing-with-care, and that we need to come together to improve the lives of older people.
“We look forward to continuing our work with Lord Blunkett at this pivotal time for our sector, to achieve the Government action to expand housing-with-care that is now more crucial than ever.”
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Notes to editors
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.