As Freedom Day arrives in England, more business as usual is returning to the House of Commons. 1 July saw a long awaited debate in the House about retirement communities and villages, focusing on how they have weathered the Covid-19 storm and horizon scanning for their future, writes Victoria Hughes-Barker.
Members praised the response of communities and villages for their work during the pandemic in keeping their residents and communities safe in what can only be described with the now overused phrase “unprecedented times”.
The House highlighted the findings of the RE-COV research project, which looked at the response of communities and villages during the pandemic and whose statistical evidence shows that retirement villages have dealt with Covid-19 in a safer way than other, comparable facilities. Without laying any criticism on traditional models of care, one member described retirement communities and villages “as a real model for how care can be provided”.
This news will be music to the ears of ARCO (the Association of Retirement Community Operators), which was mentioned in dispatches and has been campaigning for the government to set up a cross-government taskforce for a number of years to look at the legislative framework for communities and villages.
As noted in the House – and what is old news to those in the sector – there are three things holding back the development and further expansion of specialist housing for older people:
- sector-specific legislation (to give consumers confidence and to regulate the relationship between providers and residents)
- clarity in the planning system (by the introduction of a clearly defined category of housing-with-care to enable development)
- funding options for affordable housing-with-care provision (with the government supporting communities and villages as an option for all older people and not just those with equity in their family home to dispose of)
The debate in the House has now been entered into parliamentary records but only time will tell whether ARCO’s well-worn record of a call for government-led change will bring about something of substance.
Victoria Hughes-Barker is senior associate at Mills & Reeve