Yesterday, the Government finally released the long awaited Social Care White Paper, under the snappy title "People at the Heart of Care: adult social care reform".  The proposals in the White Paper are extensive - far too extensive for a single blog post - so this post focuses solely on those that relate to housing.*

These proposals are in many ways, remarkable. As I discuss in more detail, below,  after years of lobbying and research, it looks as if the Government has finally understood the contribution that specialist housing can make to improving care provision in this country. So much so, that the White Paper promises to make "every decision about care a decision about housing". 

Another long exhausting day, Another thousand dollars...

The funding proposals are perhaps the least interesting bit of this part of the White Paper, so let's get them out of the way early. 

In terms of funding, the Government has promised to:

  • invest at least £300 million over the next 3 years to embed the strategic commitment to connect housing with health and care, and drive the stock of new supported housing
  • invest at least £150 million of additional funding over the next 3 years to drive digitisation across the sector, and unlock the potential of caretech to enable preventative care and independent living.
  • launch a £30 million Innovative Models of Care Programme to support local systems to build the culture and capability to embed into the mainstream innovative models of care.
  • fund a new service to make minor repairs and changes in people’s homes, to help people remain independent and safe; and
  • continue to invest in the Care and Support Specialised Housing Fund with £210 million available for the period 2022 to 2023 through to 2024 to 2025

Whilst the additional funding for supported housing, and investment in caretech, is to be welcomed. It is not likely to result in the step change that is required if we are to ensure that there is enough specialist housing available to give everyone "the choice to live independently and healthily in their own homes for longer"

You're gonna love tomorrow..

The genuinely exciting parts of the White Paper, if they can be achieved, are in the 'enabling principles' that the Government hopes to embed throughout the local care system, and the future state that it is hoping to achieve. 

The siloed nature of local and central government, has long been an obstacle for providers of both retirement housing and integrated retirement communities - who need to persuade multiple stakeholders of the benefits of provision. Something I was moaning about at the LDE Retirement Conference, just the other week.

 As such the promises in the White Paper to provide:

  •  "strategic leadership that sees the local provision of health, care and housing services not as separate systems, but as a coherent system that seeks to deliver the best outcomes for people, using all the tools available in a joined-up way to deliver the best possible outcomes for their communities.

  • Long-term funding certainty: housing providers need to take decisions on where and when to invest that look decades into the future, confident that people will be supported to live in those homes for many years to come; and 

  • Wider influence: housing that better meets future care and support needs must be delivered within a complex wider housing market. For changes to be embedded we need to influence beyond the adult social care system."

Could, if effectively delivered, be genuinely game-changing. It would indeed be a miracle marvelous rare.

 I got through all of last year, and I'm here...

Possibly following reports of how well the sector performed during the pandemic, the White Paper also promises to work to significantly increase the supply of retirement housing and integrated retirement communities within the UK over the next ten years - with funding initially going to 'supported housing'. 

They have also promised to " work with Homes England, the Greater London Authority, and the Regulator for Social Housing to understand the barriers to accessing capital grants to increase the supply of supported housing, and ensure value for money is provided for both self-funders and welfare spend" a promise which will be music to the ears of providers in the affordable end of the market - who can really struggle to engage with local planning authorities. 

Another hundred people just got off of the train..

Whilst there is a sense of urgency in the White Paper, perhaps driven by our rapidly aging demographics and shrinking workforce, there is an acknowledgement that this is a long-term project. In fact, it is very much presented as a ten year plan - with an initial three year funding period and further proposals to follow in due course. 

In that light it is heartening to see the Government acknowledge that "the landscape of housing options for older people is wide and complex" and to commit to continuing "to work with partners across government, with local government and the NHS, and across the social care, housing, financial and other sectors to develop our ambitions and practical ideas".

Three cheers and d*mmit, C'est la vie

Particularly encouraging are the Government's commitments to:

  •  "help boost supply across the country and ensure we build a diverse range of specialist housing that matches local need and gives consumers greater choice to find the right housing solution for them";
  • "support the growth of a thriving older peoples’ housing sector that:
    • builds enough homes to match growing need
    • gives certainty to developers and investors
    • empowers consumers with choice from a diverse range of housing options to suit their needs; and
  • working closely with stakeholders from across both private and social sectors to inform future cross-government action that will help stimulate a specialist housing market that delivers effectively for both consumers and providers across the country."

Here's to the ladies who lunch 

Whilst there is currently little in the way of concrete proposals for helping deliver these commitments, the tone of the White Paper is decidedly encouraging. It looks as if we finally have central government recognition of the role that retirement housing and integrated care communities can play in our society, and a whole hearted endorsement of their place in our housing market.

Turning this into concrete policy initiatives that will help the sector navigate the planning system is likely to take more time. This is very much a first step, but at first steps go, it is a welcome one.

 As such it only feels appropriate to end with a toast.... 

A toast to that invincible bunch
The dinosaurs surviving the crunch.
Let's hear it for the ladies who lunch—
Everybody rise!
Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise!

*Well...almost.. I couldn't let the passing of Stephen Sondheim go this is a combination review of the Social Care White Paper and Sondheim Tribute post....