Give councils the tools to incentivise retirement communities

A new report argues that retirement communities should be considered a major part of the solution on how care is delivered in England in the future.

The Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) and the County Councils Network (CCN) say that these retirement communities, often a ‘fringe’ part of the conversation on reform of adult social care, offering care and support could play a hugely important preventative role in addressing the adult social care funding crisis and keeping people out of hospital longer.

Currently 75,000 people live in a retirement community: developments which allow people to live in their own property, but within a community that has onsite care, a wide range of services and amenities on site. This is only 0.6 per cent of over 65s.

ARCO estimates that should 250,000 people live in retirement communities by 2030, it could free up over 560,000 bedrooms back onto the market.

The report argues that councils and providers should be given the tools by government to incentivise and accelerate these developments as research shows that residents in these developments spend up to 12 days less on average in hospital due to unplanned accidents compared to those in regular housing.

Furthermore, these types of community should form part of the conversation on future reform of adult social care after coronavirus – with the government’s long-awaited green paper set to be published in the aftermath.

David Williams, chairman of the County Councils Network, said: “Retirement communities are currently a fringe part of the adult social care conversation, but the benefits they can bring to people’s well-being, reducing unnecessary hospital admissions, and freeing up half a million bedrooms shows that they should be a prime part of the solution to many of the societal challenges we face.

“Today’s report contains some bold yet easily implementable recommendations, not least in introducing a new planning classification to cut down on confusion, bureaucracy, and a clear specification for councils to include in their assessment of housing and care needs. These reforms could help turbocharge the development of retirement communities over the next decade. When looking at examples of other countries, it is clear the concept has yet to take off in England. But a small step change, aided by freedoms and tools from government, could usher in big results.

Nick Sanderson, chair of ARCO, said: “This bold and imaginative report makes some extremely insightful recommendations for how our sector can grow and play an even greater role in supporting our health and care systems. The Retirement Community sector is ready to play its part in partnership with councils in delivering good housing-with-care to hundreds of thousands more older people. The coronavirus outbreak has shown just how important it is to have a strong and sustainable care system for older people, ready to take the strain of the NHS at all times. Policy makers should take heed of these recommendations and act now. A housing and care revolution is within reach if the government is prepared to do the right thing.”