ADASS members will be well aware to the challenges we face with demographic change and resource challenge. My intention isn’t to argue for extra money, or to warn of the issues we face. I would, however,  like to offer a solution to one aspect of these challenges:  that is, to build extra care housing at no cost to Councils where land is available.

Mears commissioned the Housing Learning and Improvement Network (HousingLin) to investigate the evidence of the health and social care benefits of extra-care housing for older people, focusing in particular on cost-benefits values. Their report found evidence to suggest that housing for older people, particularly extra care housing, provides significant cost-benefits to the NHS and local authority adult social care.

The positive benefits are manifold. Those living in extra care housing are less likely to enter long-term care compared to those living in the community in receipt of home care. Other benefits also include improvements to residents’ mental health, autonomy, memory and decreased loneliness Staff retention for care workers is much higher in extra care units than those providing domiciliary care

You can read about our findings in our call to action. In this piece, let’s focus on how local authorities can begin planning ahead:

  • There are a number of funding options available:many companies work with private investors and pension funds for capital projects; Homes England also provides grant funding. This requires no upfront investment from the local authority.
  • Investment of land assets helps reduce rent levels and provides affordable housing. A nominations agreement with the local authority secures investment at less cost. At the end of the lease the council is able to retain the assets.
  • Councils should plan in extra care housing now – this requires a genuinely collaborative partnership between planning, housing, ASC, CCGs and the NHS. Mears provides a geo-spatial planning service which helps to identify available land.
  • We call on NHS Trusts and CCG’s to take an active role in local housing plans to ensure that provision for extra-care is included.
  • Care colleagues can articulate the need but should have meaningful influence over local plans and council wide outcomes on planning and housing.
  • Once extra care provision is created housing colleagues need to have a better focus on the outcomes and become part of the process in ensuring spaces are filled. This is especially true in two-tier areas.
  • Seek out advice from specialist builders and companies – you may not want to commit to a partner but they will be very willing to share their expertise at the initial stage.

Seeing a recent extra care development open in partnership with Northamptonshire County and Northampton Borough Councils, was genuinely uplifting. Residents were nervous at first, but they all began bonding with their new neighbours in the communal kitchen, while residents found the latest modifications and new spaces much easier to handle than the homes they were perhaps nervous to leave. I urge you all to visit an extra care home near you and see these wonderful communities develop.

The full report is available here.

Alan Long is Executive Director of Mears Group, one of the UK’s largest providers of domiciliary and extra care services. Mears Group are welcome sponsors of ADASS which furthers our charitable objectives.