Urgent action needed to expand new models of care

Providers, investors, MPs and older people call on Government to back the growth of housing with care provision

Urgent action needed to expand new models of care


  • Sector calls on Government to back the growth of housing with care provision
  • Uncertainty and lack of regulation could cost two years’ growth in the fastest growing part of the UK social care sector
  • Housing market could also get major boost
  • Cross party group in Parliament, major investors, charities and older people backing calls for action


The UK needs to take urgent action to prevent falling even further behind other countries in the innovative delivery of new models of social care – a need which has been clearly demonstrated by the coronavirus crisis according to major investors, charitable providers, Parliamentarians and older people.

During the crisis housing with care schemes such as retirement villages or extra care housing have demonstrated that they can combine the effective shielding of older people with the provision of flexible onsite care and support and a wide range of services to keep residents active and socially connected. Housing with care schemes fill the gap between domiciliary care and care homes, taking the pressure off and complementing these more established forms of support for older people.

However, only approx. 0.6% of older people live in housing with care developments in the UK, while this figure stands at 5% or more in countries such as New Zealand, the US or Australia.

Prior to the pandemic, the housing-with-care sector was set to deliver 125,000 additional housing units by 2030, equating to infrastructure investment of £40bn. As a result of increased uncertainty in the UK economy and housing market after the crisis, there is now the risk of delivery of units to be £6bn lower by 2025.

To ensure that growth does not stall, the sector has developed a Housing with care Growth Action Plan (HGAP) including a series of immediate actions the Government can take to back the sector and secure its future growth. This would capitalise on the interest of investors, who are twice as likely to increase investment in housing with care as in social care more generally, according to new research by real estate firm CBRE.  

The housing with care sector is calling on the Government to adopt a series of immediately actionable, low or no cost measures including:

  • Boosting consumer confidence by implementing announced – but not yet enacted – reforms to create clarity on fee structures and consumer protection.
  • Enabling a flexible approach to tenure models to provide greater choice to customers
  • Reducing planning uncertainty by clarifying the status of housing with care in the planning system.

The measures are being backed by major charitable providers, investors, a cross-party group of MPs (who have tabled a Parliamentary Early Day Motion on the issue) and residents themselves.

A new survey of investors by CBRE shows that 95% would be more likely to invest if there were more clarity around housing with care in the planning system, while well over half would be more likely to invest if there were more clarity on regulation and fee structures.


Nick Sanderson, Chair of the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) and Chief Executive of the Audley Group said:

“The need to reform the social care sector is unarguable. The Government must not miss this opportunity to create systemic change rather than papering over the cracks of a system that is broken. 

“It is living in unsuitable housing, particularly as people age, that places intolerable pressure on the NHS and social care systems. This pressure has been building for decades. Housing with care is a model that is proven to work; not least in keeping people safe in the current pandemic. 

“We must effect change from the ground up, increasing provision of this type of housing to take the pressure off hospitals and residential care.”


Jane Ashcroft, Chief Executive of Anchor Hanover, the UK’s largest charity providing housing and care services to older people: 

“Government has an opportunity and an obligation to demonstrate its commitment to older people’s wellbeing following the pandemic. 

“Demand for high quality specialist housing and care is extremely strong. Increasing supply has the potential to improve outcomes for older people and the economic health of the UK. 

“The measures being called for today do not require vast sums of money, simply political will.”


Nigel Wilson, Chief Executive of Legal and General, a major investor in the sector said: 

“The UK needs to achieve better outcomes for its ageing population.  The pandemic has shone a light over the UK’s need for greater health resilience, including better housing for older people and independent care options.

We need to unlock the major barriers – from fiscal to regulatory - to enable people to move into the right housing to suit their changing needs and accelerate the growth of a new generation of purpose-built stock.” 


Bob Blackman MP, who has tabled an Early Day Motion on the issue said:

“The coronavirus crisis has helped to draw attention to the need for more good housing and care options for older people. 

“There are many people who want to go on leading active and independent lives but to have the peace of mind that care and support is there if they need it. 

“We need more Retirement Communities to help keep people out of care homes for longer and to reduce pressures on the NHS. I hope that many of my colleagues will support this call.”


David Hope moved into The ExtraCare Charitable Trust’s Wixams Retirement Village with his wife June, on July 5th 2019. They are very pleased with their decision:

“We’re thrilled to bits with our apartment, it is beautifully built. We’ve met a lot of people, joining in with the quiz nights, and I also enjoy playing a game of snooker. The staff are absolutely fantastic - they’re a delight to associate with and since we’ve been here they could not have been more helpful.

“With my existing medical conditions, having care and well-being services available to us at the village is absolutely vital. If my wife’s health deteriorates, it’s essential for us to know that there will be care on offer. The important thing is we won’t be a burden to our respective children because we have everything we need here.

“I think more older people should have the opportunity to live in a retirement village like ours.” 




For Further Information Please Contact

Gareth Lyon, Head of Policy and Communications, at garethlyon@arcouk.org or on 075350 88498


Notes to editors

  1. About ARCO: ARCO (the Associated Retirement Community Operators) is the trade association for operators of housing-with-care developments for older people. ARCO was founded in 2012, and is now comprised of 27 private and not-for-profit operators of Retirement Communities. ARCO represents approximately 50% of the Retirement Community sector. ARCO sets high standards, and all ARCO members must adhere to the externally assessed ARCO Consumer Code. ARCO does not represent the traditional retirement housing model where there are limited services and no care is available or care homes.
  2. About Retirement Communities: Retirement Communities typically consist 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. They sit in between traditional retirement houses (which have less extensive staffing and leisure facilities), and care homes, and can be in urban or suburban locations.
  3. About Vision 2030: Vision 2030 is ARCO’s vision for 250,000 people to be living in retirement communities by 2030. The vision sets out ten areas of work for the sector in order to achieve this. These are:
  • Development of a clear customer proposition
  • Effective self-regulation
  • Enhanced health and wellbeing
  • Intelligent use of technology
  • Flexible models of tenure
  • Sustainable funding streams
  • Sector-specific legislation
  • Comprehensive and robust data
  • Clarity in the planning system
  • A highly trained workforce

For more information on Vision 2030, please contact Gareth Lyon, Head of Policy and Communications, at garethlyon@arcouk.org.

  1. Benefits of Retirement Communities:
  • Meeting the needs of an ageing population: Older people need and want choice in their housing for later life. However, at present housing options for older people are limited. Retirement Communities are an important element of housing choice for older people. Developing the capacity of the Retirement Community sector is vital to ensuring that the UK’s housing market is fit to meet the needs of an ageing population.
  • Promoting independence, security and wellbeing: Older people living in Retirement Communities are likely to experience lower levels of loneliness and social isolation. A 2014 study by the International Longevity Centre found that 82% of respondents in Retirement Communities said they hardly or never felt isolated, and only 1% often felt isolated.
  • Reducing costs and encouraging more efficient use of resources: Residents in Retirement Communities are able to receive specialist care in their homes if needed, enabling them to return home from hospital earlier. They are also less likely to enter hospital. For example, one way in which Retirement Communities improve health is by preventing falls. Retirement Community properties are designed and built with adaptations to support independence and research shows that those living in these specialist homes are between 1.5 and 2.8 times less likely to have a fall than those living in homes without adaptations. This helps to reduce pressure on NHS services. A recent study found that NHS costs were reduced by 38% for those moving into Retirement Community housing and NHS costs for ‘frail’ residents had reduced by 51.5% after 12 months.
  • Responding to the housing shortage: Older people moving to a Retirement Community will typically ‘downsize’, freeing up much needed and under-occupied family sized homes. If all those interested in moving into a retirement property were able to do so, research suggests that approximately 3.29 million properties would be released, including nearly 2 million three-bedroom homes.