With social care and planning reform high on the Conservative Party’s agenda as it begins its annual conference online, the housing-with-care sector has urged the party to back new ways of caring for and supporting older people so they are not left behind.
The urgent challenge has been issued by representative body ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators), warning that “the coronavirus crisis has brought into stark relief the need for our society to think again about care for older people”, and that “housing-with-care needs to play a much bigger role in a diverse social care system which is built around the needs and choices of older people themselves.”
Only 0.6% of over-65s have the opportunity to live in housing-with-care in the UK, compared to between 5-6% in countries like New Zealand, Australia and the US. This is despite the great benefits for health, wellbeing and social connection that housing-with-care brings for older people, and the huge cost savings created for the NHS and social care. ARCO’s challenge “calls for a commitment from the Conservative Party to support measures to help housing-with-care to significantly expand and benefit hundreds of thousands more older people”.
A wide range of Conservative politicians have already expressed their strong support for housing-with-care, with MPs Damian Green, Bob Blackman, Andrew Mitchell, Giles Watling, Derek Thomas and Leo Docherty, plus peer Baroness Gardner, all backing ARCO’s mission for 250,000 people to live in housing-with-care by 2030.
A number of other Conservative MPs, including Robert Halfon, Dr Julian Lewis and Sir Mike Penning, signed a recent Early Day Motion tabled in the House of Commons recognising the contribution housing-with-care has made in protecting older people during the coronavirus pandemic, and calling for measures to boost the sector’s expansion.
The sector’s challenge to the Conservative Party reads as follows: “The coronavirus crisis has brought into stark relief the need for our society to think again about care for older people. We urgently need to find new, innovative ways of supporting, caring for and giving opportunities to older people so that they are not left behind again. In this context, housing-with-care needs to play a much bigger role in a diverse social care system which is built around the needs and choices of older people themselves.
“Housing-with-care settings, sometimes called extra care housing and retirement villages, have played a vital role supporting older people through the coronavirus pandemic. They bring a unique combination of independent living with 24/7 on site care and services, boosting health and wellbeing, saving billions for the NHS and social care system, and tackling loneliness.
“Yet just 0.6% of over-65s in the UK have the opportunity to live in housing-with-care.
“Our sector calls for a commitment from the Conservative Party to support measures to help housing-with-care to significantly expand and to benefit hundreds of thousands more older people – giving them the chance to be independent, healthy and well for longer.”
The housing-with-care settings operated by ARCO members are distinct from care homes in that they combine independent living with 24/7 CQC-registered domiciliary care, services and communal facilities. Residents have been shown to stay healthy and fitter for longer and spend less time in hospital and care homes, saving billions for the NHS and social care system. Housing-with-care settings have seen low morality rates during the coronavirus pandemic and have played a vital role in supporting older people.
Michael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO, said: “We are at a critical turning point for housing and social care policy in the UK – and we implore the Conservative Government in their reforms to think differently and innovatively when it comes to supporting older people. More of the same is simply not going to cut it.
“During the coronavirus pandemic we’ve seen how housing-with-care settings can effectively shield older people while promoting independence, active living and social connection. Yet only 0.6% of over-65s have the chance to reap these benefits currently.
“We urgently need to see the political action to expand the housing-with-care sector and help change the lives of hundreds of thousands more older people.”