Former frontrunner in the Labour Cabinet, Lord Blunkett, has provided public backing for the fast-emerging housing-with-care sector, after signing up as an official Parliamentary Supporter with the sector’s representative body, ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators).
Lord Blunkett, who served as Home Secretary and Education Secretary among other top roles in the last Labour government, has recognised housing-with-care for its ability to combine independent living for older people with high-quality care and support, and vast opportunities for forming social connections.
The Peer joined forces with former Conservative Health Secretary Lord Clarke in March this year, to urge Prime Minister Boris Johnson to make the UK a world-leader in housing-with-care, and to back the idea of a cross-department task force to expand housing-with-care provision. Their joint op-ed in the Daily Express launched an open letter to the Prime Minister signed by over 40 MPs, Peers, academics, and charity and private sector leaders.
This has since been followed by the first ever Parliamentary debate on housing-with-care in July, which saw MPs from four different parties praise the sector for its performance during the COVID-19 pandemic, and call on the Government to move ahead with a housing-with-care task force.
Currently, just 0.6% of over-65s in the UK live in housing-with-care, compared to at least 5-6% in New Zealand, Australia and the US. This is despite the vast benefits that the sector brings for the health and wellbeing of older people, and the big cost savings it makes for the NHS and social care system.
Research by the not-for-profit St Monica Trust and 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, when compared with people of the same age living in the wider community (1.09%).
With increasing pressure on the Government to act to back housing-with-care, Ministers have confirmed they are considering setting up a cross-department task force to expand the sector.
Labour Peer Lord Blunkett said:
“Housing-with-care has a central part to play in the future of social care for older people, combining independent living with excellent care and support, and great opportunities for staying active and socially connected.
“It is a great pity that this was not recognised in the recent announcement made by the Government, albeit, that their plan for social care is still in the process of being developed.
“I’m very pleased to become a Parliamentary Supporter for housing-with-care because it’s a sector that brings so many benefits to older people and society as a whole, not least in maintaining independent living whilst offering support when needed and reassurance for both individuals and families.
“I urge the Government to take action now to give many more older people the opportunity to live in housing-with-care, including by setting up the cross-department task force on housing-with-care that has backing across political parties.”
Michael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO, said:
“We’re delighted to have such an esteemed figure as Lord Blunkett back housing-with-care by becoming one of our official Parliamentary Supporters.
“The open letter to the Prime Minister launched in March by Lord Blunkett and Lord Clarke showed that there is great cross-party support for housing-with-care, and that we need to come together to improve the lives of older people.
“We look forward to continuing our work with Lord Blunkett at this pivotal time for our sector, to achieve the Government action to expand housing-with-care that is now more crucial than ever.”