Boosting later life housing options key to ageing well says new report

Housing settings don’t always provide the choice and availability for people who use care and support services. That’s the conclusion in our report, published on 18 February 2021 with SCIE (the Social Care Institute for Excellence), which looks at the individual needs of older adults.

The new report focuses on care homes, retirement communities, retirement housing, supported living and Shared Lives. The report argues that if we are to successfully improve people’s quality of life in later life, the Government must commit to finding ways to improve the quality and quantity of housing that facilitates care and support.

The report, the first from the Commission on the Role of Housing in the Future of Care and Support, provides an overview of the key issues facing the sector, and outlines a vision for the future and some preliminary ideas which the Commission believes merit further exploration. It’s a discussion document, setting out some questions and asking for people to contribute to the thinking of the Commission. Anyone involved with housing and social care are encouraged to contribute their ideas

The report also sets some initial policy proposals and actions for local area to consider:

  • An increase in capital spending is needed on new forms of housing that facilitates care and support
  • Better incentives are needed to encourage developers to increase levels of investment in appropriate housing
  • Reform in the planning system. For instance, retirement community housing is not currently defined within the planning system, making it harder to build these as compared with care homes
  • A clear regulatory framework for retirement communities. There is a need now to implement sector-specific legislation on regulations and standards
  • Prevention needs to be at the heart of the strategy for improving the quality of housing that facilitates care and support. Initial proposals for further reforms include, for instance, a commitment to invest in housing that facilitates care and support
  • Improved information, advice and advocacy to support informed decision-making for people seeking housing that facilitates care and support.

The Commission was set up to develop an evidence-based vision and roadmap for housing in the future of care and support. The Commission will also produce a cost benefit tool for local commissioners and estimates of the impact of national investment in new forms of accommodation.

The Government’s health and care White Paper has a large housing- shaped hole at its heart. The White Paper is all about integrating health and care – getting the right housing options can pay big dividends for people in later life when they have care and support needs. Now is the time for a national strategy that invests in dramatically increasing the number and choice of places to live that provide access to personalised care. Above all we need a change in mindsets so that housing, care and support go hand-in-hand and are sustainable.

Rt Hon Paul Burstow, Co Chair of the Commission

The increasing demand for housing that facilitates care and support means that the need for change is now critical. The Commission has identified a number of features that need to be addressed in the future, for instance:

  • Housing needs to be in the right place: People should be able to access housing that facilitates care and support in both a place they want to live and a community with which they identify
  • It needs to promote independence: We support people to live independent lives, in a place they call home, for as long as possible
  • Co-production and shared decision-making is essential. Involvement of people who use care and support in respect of housing should be widened and deepened.

The Commission says that, in order to deliver this vision, there must be a dramatic increase the supply of housing that facilitates care and support. Every area should have a full spectrum of housing options including supported living and Shared Lives schemes, retirement communities, retirement housing, and care homes available to meet the needs of a growing number of older people, including those who are living alone.

The provision of a range of choice of suitable housing within age-friendly communities means we can all look forward to a healthier later life. But it’s clear that this choice is not available consistently up and down the country. This report represents the Commission’s initial findings and calls for substantial change both nationally and locally if people are to be able to access the choice of housing they deserve. There is strong evidence of the links between suitable housing and health outcomes in later life so joined-up thinking across the health, social care and housing budgeting and planning is long overdue. Using co-production, local leadership and deep local knowledge of the needs of communities can make sure that housing facilitates good care and support for the years to come.

Susan Kay, Executive Director, Dunhill Medical Trust

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