Parliament to hold first ever debate on UK housing-with-care

Westminster Hall debate on 1st July to focus on Retirment Communities and pandemic

It has been announced that MPs will hold the first ever formal debate on the housing-with-care sector next Thursday, 1st July, marking a key milestone in the recognition and status of the fastest growing part of the social care system.

The Westminster Hall debate, secured by Jim Shannon MP and taking place from 3:15pm, will focus on the way in which housing-with-care offers a new, innovative model for delivering care, and keeping older people active and healthy for longer.

Housing-with-care combines independent living for older people with 24/7 onsite staff, CQC-registered domiciliary care for those who need it, and a range of communal services and facilities, keeping residents safe and shielded during the pandemic, while offering innovative ways to stay socially connected.

A recent study by St Monica Trust and the 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, compared with people of the same age living in the wider community. This builds on the long-standing benefits of housing-with-care for health and wellbeing, with NHS and social care costs reducing by 38% per resident, and average hospital stays going down from an average of 8-14 days to 1-2 days.

The housing-with-care sector has been celebrating World Wellbeing Week, with the representative body for the sector, ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators), sharing videos each day of residents and staff talking about the benefits of living in a Retirement Community.

The Westminster Hall debate signifies growing Parliamentary support for new social care options like housing-with-care, to complement existing options like care homes and homecare. Jim Shannon MP is one of 18 official Parliamentary Supporters for Retirement Communities, spanning six different political parties and groupings.

Earlier this year, MPs and Peers joined forces with over 30 charity and private sector leaders, older people’s representatives and academics to write an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for the 2020s to be the “decade of housing-with-care”. This came shortly after Parliamentarians and experts had collaborated to produce a “Housing-with-Care Grey Paper” with policy ideas to expand the sector.

Just 0.6% of over-65s in the UK currently have the opportunity to live in housing-with-care, compared to at least 5-6% in countries like New Zealand, Australia and the US. The sector has been calling for the creation of a cross-government Housing-with-Care Task Force to overcome policy barriers to expansion, which include a lack of clarity in the planning system and consumer protection regulation.

Michael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO, said:

“We’re really pleased that the housing-with-care sector will finally be getting the Parliamentary attention it deserves at next week’s Westminster Hall debate. This represents a huge milestone for our fast growing sector which is ready to play a key role in the UK’s social care system in future.

“Retirement Communities up and down the country have shown their ability to keep residents safe, shielded and socially connected during the pandemic, and we need many more of them as part of a more diverse social care system.

“We look forward to hearing from MPs of all parties at the debate next week, and hope that it spurs the government action that we need to see for the housing-with-care sector to transform the lives of many more thousands of older people.”

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

“Next week’s Westminster Hall debate on Retirement Communities is extremely welcome, and a real opportunity to raise awareness of the sector’s vast benefits for older people, and our country as a whole.

“Housing-with-care has the potential to save the NHS and social care system billions, dramatically improve the health, wellbeing and independence of older people, and free up homes for all ages.

“We will only realise these benefits on a wider scale if the Government puts the regulatory framework in place for the sector to flourish, and hope that this debate is an important milestone in achieving that change.”

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

“Housing-with-care has played such a pivotal role during the Covid-19 pandemic in looking after older people and keeping them active and well, so next week’s Westminster Hall debate is hugely timely during what will be a key year for social care.

“With only 0.6% of over-65s currently having the opportunity to live in housing-with-care, it is very important that we expand the sector to complement existing options like care homes and homecare.

“We’ve been calling for a cross-government task force to be set up and make this vision a reality, and urge MPs from all parties to support this idea at next week’s debate.”


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.