As a provider of long-term care and housing for older people, we see first-hand the positive impact that retirement living has on those in later life, particularly Extra Care housing; it maintains independence and is a better alternative to residential care homes.
Our teams in our Extra Care developments help homeowners with daily chores such as housework, laundry and food shopping while also providing CQC-registered personal care services. They can also help with palliative care packages to make their last days as comfortable as possible.
McCarthy & Stones homeowners are typically aged 83 at the point of purchase and are looking for more support than they had in their previous property. Having our management services teams available on-site 24 hours a day, 365 days a year is hugely reassuring to them and their families.
Yet this and all forms of retirement housing are surprisingly difficult to deliver because of an unresponsive planning system that has not yet caught up with the needs of our ageing population. When new developments are proposed, local authorities are usually not aware of the range of housing needs of older people, have few policies in place to promote these schemes, and mistakenly view these developments as a type of care home.
Worse still, some feel it will add a further burden on local health and social care services, whereas the opposite is the case. Our homeowners typically live in the locality already and retirement housing means they are less likely to need public healthcare. Indeed, c.9/10 of our customers say we improve their quality of life.
The Social Care Green Paper, set for publication this autumn, is a marvellous opportunity to address these issues and deliver more Extra Care and other types of specialist retirement housing. For instance, there is currently no national planning policy support for retirement housing and no dedicated planning use class. This leads to a range of issues and impacts on development viability; the wrong classification can lead to paying significant sums in planning contributions and other taxes that kill new proposals at the land acquisition phase. This stymies investment, limits growth and can increase the cost for consumers.
The retirement living sector is united in the call for planning reform. While McCarthy & Stone builds more specialist retirement housing and Extra Care housing each year than any other organisation, supply in this sector is low at around 7,000 units a year. Planning reform could increase delivery rates of retirement housing to around 30,000 units a year, making better use of existing under-occupied family housing and save millions of pounds in social care bills.
In addition, the Green Paper also has the opportunity to increase regulation and transparency around costs and standards in this sector, which McCarthy & Stone fully supports. It’s essential that operators, investors, and most importantly, customers, have full confidence and clarity around retirement living.
Without a magic money tree, Government must look to the private sector for solutions. The retirement housing industry is ready and waiting to help, but regulatory reform is needed first. The Government has a great opportunity with the Green Paper to deliver these changes. We hope they take it.
Hear Gary Day, Land and Planning Director at McCartney & Stone discuss whether the social care green paper is good for the future of housing and care at the 2018 Future of Ageing Conference. Reserve your place today.
Director of Communications
McCarthy & Stone