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Expert Insights

08 July 2021

Housing-with-care considered in first ever parliamentary debate

The first ever formal parliamentary debate into housing-with-care was held on 1 July 2021, tabled by Jim Shannon MP. The debate focussed on the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on retirement communities, flagging the threat of serious illness, loss of social support and isolation to the elder community but also highlighting that retirement villages tended to be safer environments by offering residents the ability to self-isolate in their own homes whilst maintaining access to a network of support, supervision and social interaction which was not possible in other care settings.

The UK retirement village space is still a nascent market compared to other countries (only 0.6% of over-65s in the UK live in such facilities whereas in the US, New Zealand and Australia this figure is closer to 5% to 6%), but it has been rapidly growing in recent years driven by an increase in life expectancy and a shortage of suitable retirement accommodation.

The debate outlined three things needed to address this shortage of suitable retirement accommodation – (1) sector-specific legislation and regulation to set out residents’ rights and to define the nature of the relationship with care providers, so as to give greater long-term confidence to both consumers and investors; (2) clarity in the planning system as it is currently harder to build housing-with-care properties than traditional care homes due to a lack of definition in the planning system; and (3) funding options for affordable housing-with-care provision so that it is an option for all older people.

Jim Shannon MP said that the pandemic has redrawn the landscape for retirement communities and that the Government must take steps to fund later living accommodation to plan and prepare for the future. This does not mean that there are calls to move away entirely from traditional models of care homes or retirement living. As the Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP stressed, there has to be a full suite of facilities available so that the right facility is available for the right person. It is about having the right housing options available for retired people to stay independent for longer, continuing to live as part of a wider community in their own home, with the care they need easily accessible when needed.

The debate has marked a key milestone in the evolvement of this sector. The overarching theme from the debate is that there is a real opportunity for the retirement village model to form part of the Government’s plans to reform the social care system and address the housing crisis. There are mounting calls for a cross-Government taskforce to be established to look at this type of facility and for the Government to set out a clear roadmap for how it plans to support this sector during its expansion.

Charles Russell Speechlys has considerable expertise in the retirement living sector. If you would like more information, please contact Jon Bond (Banking), Cara Fulker (Banking), Sarah Wigington (Corporate), Claire Fallows (Planning) or your usual Charles Russell Speechlys’ contact.

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