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Addressing housing and care for our ageing population

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Neither Brexit nor the outcome of the recent general election will make any difference to the ageing of our population and the increasing cost of both housing and caring for them.

Politicians and society cannot undertake a modern day impersonation of King Canute, hoping they can turn the rising flood-tide of incoming demand and both will have to accept that this cost can only be met by a partnership between private and public sectors, alignment of NHS and social care budgets and organisation and greater management efficiency within the NHS.

Retirement villages are a major contributor to managing this increasing demand in a manner that is highly cost effective for both society and the individual by increasing the supply of specialist housing with care for the elderly.

UK way behind other countries

A study by Aston University demonstrated specialist retirement housing with care provides huge savings of 27% per capita of the over 65’s to NHS budgets, arising from the safety, support and specialist design of the villages as well as providing the social interaction that increases quality of life and subsequent life expectancy. Yet provision of this specialist and nationally valuable resource in the UK lags way behind other countries with developed retirement village markets.

The recent Housing White Paper made positive noises about specialist housing for the elderly but if the new government is to produce results it will need to do much more than use fine words but take urgent steps to:

  • exempt stamp duty on specialist housing with care as a strong disincentive to people downsizing, thus freeing up housing supply, especially of family properties
  • speed the planning system by either creating a new planning use class for housing with care or clarifying the C2 use class
  • Increase the availability of bank funding for retirement housing by ensuring the Law Commission recommendations on “event fees” pass into legislation

Dilnott approach much fairer

Regarding care funding the recommendation in the Dilnott report of a maximum personal expenditure of £75,000 on long term social care was replaced in the Conservative Manifesto by a minimum asset collar of £100,000 and, in a late addition, a new capped amount is to be consulted on. The minimum asset collar is simply unfair to anyone who has worked and saved hard during their lives such that they have become a property owner. The Dilnott approach was much fairer.

Latest from the Queen’s Speech

Delighted to hear yesterday’s news (Wed, 21st June) in the Queen’s Speech, paving the way for this so called “Dementia Tax” Manifesto item is to be scrapped. There is talk of reform although I see the Government has stopped short of detailing quite what this will mean or look like at this stage. In my opinion, rather than picking on homeowners, Government needs to own up and state the unpopular truth that every consumer and the Government will have to pay more for the care of the increasing numbers of elderly.

With this in mind, it is disappointing that the provision of much more advanced insurance products that will help pay for long term care in old age does not seem to be on this Government’s agenda and the challenge remains to see if this additional financial provision can be provided in an equitable manner.

Retirement village operators are there to help if Government can create the right conditions.

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