MPs urge Government to back ARCO’s housing-with-care task force

Care Minister confirms cross-government initiative being considered

On Thursday 1 July MPs from four parties used the first ever Parliamentary debate on housing-with-care to urge the Government to move ahead with ARCO’s proposal for a cross-department housing-with-care task force – leading to the Government confirming that this task force is now under consideration.

During a Westminster Hall debate secured by the DUP’s Jim Shannon and whose attendees included Social Care Minister, Helen Whately, and Shadow Social Care Minister, Liz Kendall, MPs praised the performance of housing-with-care during the pandemic and said many more older people should be given the opportunity to live in this setting.

Recent research by St Monica Trust and the Housing Learning Improvement Network found that just 0.97% of housing-with-care residents died from COVID-19 between March-December 2020, significantly below the average for people of the same age in the wider community. Housing-with-care settings, sometimes called Retirement Communities, have also been commended for keeping residents socially connected at a time of physical isolation.

This strong performance has spurred renewed attention on the sector, which combines independent living through older people renting or owning their own flat, together with 24/7 onsite staff, CQC-registered domiciliary care for those who need it, and a wide range of communal services and facilities.

With the pandemic prompting reflection on the social care system and the ways older people can be better supported to live healthily, MPs pressed the Government to take onboard the proposals made by representative body ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators) for a new housing-with-care task force to solve the policy challenges holding the sector back.

As Liz Kendall highlighted, this requires clearly defining housing-with-care in the planning system, strengthening consumer protection regulation, and expanding affordable housing-with-care provision so it is an option accessible to all older people.

The proposal for a task force was made by ARCO last year, as a way of bringing policy on the “housing” and “care” elements of housing-with-care together, looked after by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) respectively.

Social Care Minister Helen Whately confirmed in the debate that she wants to see the sector grow as part of a diverse social care system, and that the task force idea was under serious consideration.

In the debate, Karen Bradley, Conservative MP for Staffordshire Moorlands, said:

“This kind of facility needs to be looked at with a cross-Government approach. ARCO is calling for a cross-Government taskforce. I would urge the Minister to consider that, because this is not an issue that merely sits within the Department of Health and Social Care, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government or any other Department. It is a cross-Government issue that needs to be looked at in the round.”

Liz Kendall, Labour MP for Leicester West and Shadow Social Care Minister, said:

“We live in the century of ageing. We have all heard about how the number of people aged over 65 will increase by more than 40% by 2040 to over 16 million. Having more options between care at home and a care home must be part of our vision for social care and housing in future, so that someone can be in their own home, living independently, but draw down those services and support as and when they need them. 

“We need a clearly defined category of housing with care in the planning system. We need sector-specific legislation and regulation for housing with care, to give consumers greater confidence, spelling out residents’ rights and the nature of the relationship with care providers. And the Government need to seriously look at how we ensure that housing with care is an option for all older people, regardless of their means or housing wealth.”

Helen Whately, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent and Social Care Minister, said:

“We are in agreement in this debate that we need to do more and we need to increase the supply of retirement housing and extra care housing and have a broad range of the kind of housing that helps people to live with their own front door—in their own home—for longer.

“We are working across Government and also working with stakeholders, with the sector, on how we can achieve it. We are indeed considering the proposal for a taskforce…the partnership approach is absolutely one on the table.”

Jim Shannon, DUP MP for Strangford, said:

“There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our society. Looking at how retirement communities have come through the crisis, there is no doubt that the landscape for retirement communities has been redrawn.

“There is clearly a shortage of specialist housing for older people. In March 2021, a broad coalition of older people’s representatives, policy makers, the private sector and civil society leaders wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister, calling for an increase in the supply of housing-with-care options in the UK. The questions asked by various Members from the Labour, Conservative and Scottish National parties indicate that there is clearly an issue for us to resolve.”

Michael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO, said:

“We’re really pleased that MPs from different parties are urging the Government to move forward with our proposal for a cross-department task force on housing-with-care.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused serious reflection on our social care system and the need for more options between care at home and care homes, and the housing-with-care sector stands ready to play a bigger role supporting older people if given the right backing.

“Our proposal for a task force would provide the impetus to tackle the key policy challenges facing housing-with-care, from a lack of clarity in the planning system to the need for stronger consumer protection regulation, and we hope the Government does the right thing by acting now.”

Nick Sanderson, Chief Executive of Audley Villages and Chair of ARCO, said:

“It was great to see cross-party support for ARCO’s housing-with-care task force proposal at yesterday’s historic debate in Parliament, and we hope this provides the impetus for swift Government action to expand the sector.

“With just 0.6% of over-65s in the UK currently having the opportunity to reap the benefits of housing-with-care, which include improved health, wellbeing and social connection, and fewer GP and hospital visits, we desperately need the Government backing to increase provision.

“Crucially, this does not require vast sums of money but rather sector-specific regulation and legislation, and clarity in the planning system. A cross-department task force provides the best vehicle for making these changes.”

Jane Ashcroft CBE, Chief Executive of Anchor Hanover and Vice Chair of ARCO, said:

“Housing-with-care settings across the country have shown their immense value during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping residents safe and protected, and helping them stay socially connected during a time of physical isolation.

“With our population ageing, it is vital we bring these benefits to many more older people – but we will only be able to do so if the right sector-specific regulation and legislation is developed and implemented now.

“ARCO’s proposal for a cross-department task force must be implemented quickly by the Government, to make the policy changes to enable the housing-with-care sector to flourish and transform the lives of hundreds of thousands more older people.”


For Further Information Please Contact

Sam Dalton, Policy and External Affairs Manager, at or on 07722553856


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.