The Government has released its long-awaited Social Care White Paper, with £300m investment in specialist housing over the next three years earmarked.

With this context, the government intention is that over the 3-year period the new investment will:

  • Enable all local areas to agree a plan embedding housing in broader health and care strategies, including investing in jointly commissioned services;
  • Boost the supply of supported housing, coupled with driving innovation in how services are delivered alongside housing where possible;
  • Increase local expenditure on services for those in supported housing.

The White Paper argues that a significantly expanded Integrated Retirement Community (IRC) sector “must be at the heart of the new social care system”.

Plans in the White Paper include:

  • £300m towards specialist housing such as Integrated Retirement Communities
  • Fund a new service to make minor repairs and changes in peoples’ homes, to help people remain independent and safe.
  • This will happen alongside increasing the upper limit of the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) to £570m per year
  • Continue to invest in the Care and Support Specialised Housing (CASSH) fund with £210m available for the period 2022–23 to 2024–25
  • Commits to giving people a good range of alternative housing and support options such as Integrated Retirement Communities
  • Recognises the need for greater awareness of housing-with-care options such as Integrated Retirement Communities
  • Commits to making every decision about care a decision about housing
  • Commits to bringing UK provision of IRCs up to the levels of comparable countries

There is also an acknowledgement that many departments and specialisms need to work together to make this a reality.

It says that health, social care and other services, such as housing, homelessness and community support need to be “joined-up to provide a seamless care experience of person-led support, which also recognises and supports unpaid carers.”

There were also some changes outlined to the Disabled Facilities Grant, including:

  • Increasing the amount that the grant can pay for an individual adaptation. This will bring mean that more people who need the grant across the country will be able to access it. A public consultation on this change will occur in 2022.
  • Looking at the way DFG funding is allocated to local authorities. This will help ensure better alignment with local demand so that more adaptations reach those who need them most. The government will consult on a new approach in 2022.
  • Considering how best to align the means test with the charging reforms. A public consultation on this change will occur in 2022.

The Paper also suggests that the long-promised Task Force is at the forefront of the Government’s thinking, stating: “We remain committed to 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.

“We will continue to work across government to explore options to support and incentivise market growth, including ways to give developers greater clarity, investors more confidence and provide consumers with the necessary protections.”

In the House of Commons debate on the White Paper, there was positive signs for current supporting housing too, with Minister Gillian Keegan saying there will be more help for supported housing and, with councils, ministers will work on how funding can be found.

Michael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO said: “Today must mark a turning point in how we support older people in the UK – the future of social care depends on expanding the provision of Integrated Retirement Communities.

“This White Paper clearly recognises the key role which specialist housing such as Integrated Retirement Communities should play in our future social care system.

“As a society we must aim to give every older person the choice to maintain their independence by moving into specialist housing offering care and support as they need it.

“Today is a good first step. We are ready, now, to work with the Government to make this happen.”

Kris Peach, Executive Director of Extra Care at Housing 21, said: “We welcome The Government’s new strategy for pay and career development for care staff, but this proposal does not go far enough. It is deeply worrying that only £1.8bn a year in additional funding for social care has been earmarked so far, when care experts and MPs argue the sector requires an extra £10bn annually.

“Myths surrounding the lack of career progression the sector offers are also exacerbating the care crisis. The promise to invest £500m in the workforce also goes nowhere near far enough, especially against the stark backdrop of the approximate 105,000 care worker vacancies currently advertised daily.

“The Government and care sector share this responsibility to ensure the extreme efforts of care workers are fully recognised and appropriately rewarded. Only then can the sector reliably attract and retain the talent we need to ensure quality care – both now and in future.”

You can find the full White Paper here.