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From seedling to oak: top and tail care provision

Ana Lelliott, Solicitor, Wright Hassall

The opening of Apples & Honey Nightingale nursery in the grounds of a residential care home in South London last year probably sounded like the arrival of the cavalry to the beleaguered sandwich generation. But although this initiative has the potential to solve some issues of care provision for those trying to juggle elderly parents and pre-school children, its benefits are extensive. Apples & Honey is the first example in the UK and it appears to have been enthusiastically received by residents, parents and staff. Given the CQC’s proclamation last year that the adult social care sector is approaching a “tipping point” can intergenerational schemes provide a solution?

Socially inclusive, financially beneficial
Children from the Apples & Honey nursery had already been regular visitors to Nightingale House which cares for the elderly, including those with dementia, so when a suitable building in the grounds became free it seemed an obvious step to open a second nursery there.

Nursery care costs, skewed by the shortfall caused by insufficient government funding for the 30 hours’ free care for pre-schoolers, are either causing nurseries to shut up shop or forcing them to ask parents of the under-3s to pay more. Likewise, the cost of care home provision is soaring for those who can afford the fees and who find themselves picking up the financial slack for those who are local authority funded and thus subject to a cap. Given that staff and premises’ costs constitute the bulk of outgoings, co-locating on the same site is a no-brainer – not only can rent and rates be shared, but also admin functions such as IT, HR, and marketing.

Intergenerational interaction good for young and old
The benefits of mixing age groups are also well documented; a real plus in a world where age groups increasingly operate in silos. At Apples & Honey Nightingale, the nursery is happy to use the care home as a rich resource. Depending on their physical capabilities, Nightingale House’s residents help the children with a range of pursuits from gardening, painting and cooking to story-telling and singing. From the US, the evidence suggests that the elderly get a new lease of life from their interaction with the children and show significant cognitive and physical improvements. Experts are also of the opinion that the children benefit in a similar way – learning vital social skills such as kindness, patience and empathy, whilst improving emotional intelligence.

Regulation should be no impediment to more co-location
Naturally there are various regulatory requirements governing intergenerational care, primarily safeguarding, health & safety, and liability issues, but these should not prove a show-stopper. Both care strands sit within well-defined regulatory frameworks, the CQC and Ofsted, which provide robust protection for both young and old. Inevitably there will be areas of overlap which will become more apparent as the number of co-located care providers grow but, with government support, these should be easily resolved.

Bridging the generation gap
For the generation born before the war, without the benefit of today’s understanding of diet, exercise, and developing new interests, many have feared old age, in particular social isolation. Co-locating nurseries and care homes is only one step towards bridging the generational divide but an important one. There may be regulatory and legal challenges to deal with but the reasons to press ahead are manifold. It’s for everyone’s benefit that we rediscover what community really means.

About the Author

Ana Lelliott is a Solicitor with Wright Hassall. She advises care providers in respect of regulatory actions taken against them by the CQC and challenges decisions taken by Local Authorities by way of Judicial Review.

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