Housing with care must be at the centre of social care reform

Jane Ashcroft CBE, CEO, Anchor Hanover

Back in February, in these very pages, I praised Care Talk’s Social Care Leadership Awards for recognising the extraordinary work of the social care sector in 2020 and called on the government to recognise this work through long-promised reform in 2021.

Eight months on and the signs are encouraging – though it’s a little early to put up the bunting. The government’s social care reforms, announced last month, contain many positive aspects. We’ll need to see far more detail and understand how the government intends to manage the transition before there’s reason to celebrate.

What is certainly welcome though is that its policy paper gives recognition of many people’s concerns regarding “a lack of choice in securing the support they need or a lack of suitable housing” and states that the government will “invest in …. supported housing, as well as exploring other innovative housing solutions to support more people to live independently at home”.

So far, so good. And whilst we await further details, it’s worth stressing that Housing with Care, also known as Extra Care, is one such “innovative housing solution”.

During the pandemic, we have found ourselves more reliant on the home environment than ever before. For many older people, this has huge implications for their wellbeing. As more and more people consider their housing options, Anchor is clear that Extra Care has an enormous role to play in the future of our ageing society.

The present situation is extremely urgent. Extra Care housing is facing a looming crisis as supply fails to keep up with demand. Of the 400,000 short fall in older people’s housing units by 2030, 61,000 of these will be Extra Care.

It is not just service users who will miss out if this situation is left unaddressed. Research conducted by Sonnet Advisory & Impact CIC for us shows that our services alone save local authorities and the NHS around £6,700 per year per resident.

A crucial first step the government could undertake would be the establishment of a Housing with Care Task Force to help to guide investment and planning in this area.

With 103 Extra Care schemes, Anchor has a wide range of experience and expertise in service delivery; allowing residents to continue to live independently whilst providing flexible, person-centred support.

We have seen first-hand how Extra Care, like the wider care sector, used innovation in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic to safeguard the health and wellbeing of older people and support the work of health services.

Several Anchor schemes were able to rapidly support the Discharge to Assess model by providing additional interim / step up flats across the country. With resources across statutory services stretched, these properties supported rapid discharge to a safe, supportive environment where existing social care resources could be utilised.

A six-week license to occupy ensured a focussed program of reablement and assessment in self-contained accommodation and an enhanced level of infection control. Some of those discharged even became permanent residents at the Extra Care schemes.

Our plans for Extra Care do not stop at our existing schemes. In partnership with McCarthy Stone, we are developing 316 Extra Care properties of mixed tenure and Anchor has also been chosen by Manchester City Council to deliver the UK’s first purpose-built and co-produced LGBT+ Extra Care scheme. The project will see us develop over 100 new apartments of mixed affordable rent and shared ownership tenure in the city.

As a new era for social care dawns, the government must recognise not just challenges of our ageing society but also the opportunities. Later life is for living and investment in supporting older people’s independence and wellbeing will in turn deliver huge benefits for society as a whole.


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