The Liberal Democrats have been issued an urgent challenge by the UK’s housing-with-care sector as its online conference gets underway, calling for the party to back new models of social care so that older people are not left behind again.
Spearheaded by representative body ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators), the challenge 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 Liberal Democrats 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.
A number of senior figures within the Liberal Democrats have already expressed their support for the growth of housing-with-care. Lord Shipley, the party’s former Spokesperson for Housing, is an official Parliamentary Supporter of ARCO’s mission for 250,000 people to live in housing-with-care by 2030.
Recently, the current Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Housing, Tim Farron, and the party’s Spokesperson for Health and Social Care, Munira Wilson, both backed an 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 Liberal Democrats 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 Liberal Democrats 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 call on the Liberal Democrats to urgently support new models of social care that keep older people safe, improve their health and fitness, and take pressure off the NHS and social care system.
“The coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on the vital role that housing-with-care plays in effectively shielding older people while simultaneously promoting independence, active living and social connection. It is a national shame that only 0.6% of over-65s have the chance to live in this type of setting.
“We are really pleased that Lord Shipley is an official supporter of housing-with-care, and that a number of senior Liberal Democrats have backed the expansion of our sector. But now is the time for the party to take the next step and support specific measures which will enable housing-with-care to grow and benefit hundreds of thousands more older people.
“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.”