City academic pushes for care sector reforms in new Demos report
Reforms are urgently needed in the residential care sector, according to a new report from the Demos Commission on Residential Care.
Announced in Westminster today, the year-long commission - chaired by Paul Burstow MP - argues that residential care should be rebranded as part of a spectrum of housing options for those in need of care. By separating out 'what' care and support people need from 'where' this care is delivered should allow a freer choice of housing to meet individual preferences.
Around 450,000 people live in care homes in England. A rapidly ageing population and an increase in younger people with complex health needs will see this number continue to rise - leaving the sector and wider economy underprepared.
The report suggests that the residential care sector is an under-used and overlooked resource of specialist support and expertise, which is frequently hindered by the structures around it. By separating the 'what' from the 'where', there should be a step-change in regulation, funding and commissioning. However, there is an urgent need to also address how to fund care. Without prompt action, the Commissioners believe the successful implementation of the Care Act and the future care system will be jeopardised.
Julienne Meyer, Professor of Nursing: Care for Older People at City University London and executive Director of My Home Life Programme (MHL), said:
"As our older population continues to grow it is critical that we have enough care homes and accommodation to enable people to stay independent, happy and healthy for as long as possible. We also need to recognise that many frail older people (including those with dementia) at the end stage of life need good access to both health and social care. To do this we need the government to wake up to this reality sooner rather than later and help create the right incentives to ensure older and disabled people have a genuine choice when they need to move. This report sets out the roadmap for change and contains a set of robust recommendations designed to ensure that high quality housing with care becomes a reality for everyone who needs it."
Bringing together academics, industry experts and providers to explore the future of residential care, the commission covered everything from care homes, villages and supported living for older and disabled people.
Some interesting ideas are explored in the report. For instance, less than 40% of land held by NHS trusts is currently being used for hospitals and medical buildings, leaving over 5,000 hectares potentially available for other purposes such as care accommodation. This would also ease the strain on the NHS, where around 30% of acute hospital beds are filled with people who don't need acute care and could be looked after in a care setting.
The Demos Commission's final report calls for incentives, such as expedited planning permission and reduced purchase prices, to sell surplus land to providers who are willing to reserve a percentage of space for state-funded care, or contribute to local authority services.