The UK housing with care sector has issued an urgent challenge to the Labour Party on the eve of leader Keir Starmer's conference speech, warning that older people are in danger of being left behind again unless new models of social care are brought to the forefront of social care reform.
The challenge, spearheaded by representative body ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators), says that "the coronavirus crisis has brought into stark relief the need for our society to think again about care for older people", and that "new, innovative ways of supporting, caring for and giving opportunities to older people" require immediate action.
With only 0.6% of over-65s having the opportunity to live in housing-with-care in the UK, ARCO's challenge "calls for a commitment from the Labour Party to support measures to help housing-with-care to significantly expand and to benefit hundreds of thousands more older people". Countries like New Zealand, Australia and the US all have ten times the level of provision available in the UK per head of population.
The sector has attracted growing attention within the Labour Party, with MPs Lilian Greenwood, Alex Sobel, Peter Kyle, Rosie Cooper and Ian Byrne, plus Labour peer Lord Foulkes, all official supporters of ARCO's mission for 250,000 people to live in housing-with-care by 2030. Numerous others signed a recent Early Day Motion tabled in the House of Commons backing housing-with-care, including former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.
The sector's challenge to the official opposition 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 Labour 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.
"We urge the Labour Party to recognise and support the new models of social care that keep older people safe, boost health and fitness, and reduce the burden on the NHS and social care system," saidMichael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO (pictured)."Housing-with-care settings have shown during the coronavirus crisis that they can effectively shield older people while simultaneously promoting independence, active living and social connection. The fact that only 0.6% of over-65s have the chance to live in this type of setting is a national shame.
"We are at a critical juncture for transforming the way we look after older people in this country, and political action cannot wait any longer."