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They will today urge Boris Johnson to hire a task force to make the UK a world leader in socalled housing with care. These specialist retirement communities allow pensioners to remain independent and in their own homes, either as owners or tenants. They also offer on-site restaurants, gyms and 24-hour staffing, alongside care services that can help residents with everyday tasks such as dressing and washing.
The hamlets will usually include NHS GPs and other health professionals and private services.
Lord Clarke, 80 – former Tory Chancellor and Health Secretary – and retired Labour Home Secretary Lord Blunkett, 73, are leading a coalition of more than 30 experts including MPs, charities and campaigners.
They say the nation’s crisis-ridden social care system desperately needs bold initiatives for the rapidly rising number of older people.
The campaigners believe a decade of building modern retirement housing would transform healthy ageing, drastically reduce pressure on the NHS – and tackle loneliness.
Their move comes after the pandemic left many too scared to move into traditional care homes and follows the PM’s declared intent for the UK to “build back better”.
In an exclusive joint article for The Daily Express, Lords Blunkett and Clarke insist that there is “overwhelming societal, political, commercial and public support for change in social care”.
The Prime Minister is being urged to hire a taskforce to make the UK a world leader in care homes
And in an open letter to Mr Johnson, the coalition claim a massive retirement housing project would bring £100billion worth of economic growth and create 40,000 jobs.
The pioneering hamlets would also save the NHS and social care systems billions and free more than 100,000 much needed homes for families to move in.
Around 35,000 residents have died to date following a decision at the start of the pandemic to discharge elderly patients from hospitals into care homes without Covid tests.
The coronavirus disaster has also highlighted the lack of rights residents face. Some have been evicted at short notice because they have broken rules on “window visits”.
John Tonkiss, chief executive of retirement housebuilder McCarthy & Stone, said: “The pandemic has shone a harsh light on the UK’s failing social care system.
“For too long we have been forcing older people to choose between their family home and a care home.We must take this opportunity to provide the housing options they need.
“Over the last 12 months our retirement communities – a third way to live in later life – have kept our customers safe and well, seeing significantly lower levels of Covid-19 than in wider society. It’s now vital the Government takes the necessary steps to help our sector build the retirement communities we need.
John Tonkiss says the pandemic has shone a harsh light on the UK’s failing social care system
“We want to see a dedicated retirement community task force established to address the challenges that exist.”
Eighty-five percent of housing with care operators polled in a recent survey reported a significant boost in interest in their developments.
However, just 0.6 percent of people over 65 in Britain have the opportunity to live in one.
By contrast, New Zealand, Australia and America have between five and six percent of that age group living in similar purpose-built communities.
The campaigners’ letter to the Prime Minister says: “UK provision to only a third of these levels would result in more than a £100billion of economic activity, create 40,000 jobs, save the NHS and social care systems billions of pounds and see more than 100,000 family homes freed up.”
Nick Sanderson, chairman of Associated Retirement Community Operators (Arco), is one of the key figures putting their name to the letter.
Arco says it wants 250,000 older people living in retirement hamlets by the end of the decade.
Mr Sanderson said: “When it comes to social care it is clear that more of the same is not going to suffice.
“Alongside care homes and home care, we need to quickly expand the housing with care options available to older people so they can live independently while having access to the best care and support.”
Mr Sanderson added: “The Covid-19 crisis has only made this more urgent.We know finding a solution to the social care funding question has been pushed back to next year, but the expansion of provision must start now.”
Professor Les Mayhew, of the Business School, is also research head at the International Longevity Centre – UK.
He said: “The overwhelming evidence is that we have nowhere near enough retirement housing to meet the needs of our ageing population, especially housing with care.
The coronavirus disaster highlighted the lack of rights residents faced
“Many older people are interested in downsizing but the lack of supply prevents the freeing up of under-occupied family homes that would hugely benefit younger generations, including first-time buyers.
“Unblocking the current logjam must be a priority if we are to solve the housing crisis and meet the social care needs of an ageing population.
“A cross-government task force to help break down the institutional barriers would be win-win for us all – the young, old and everyone in between.”
The experts’ letter says: “Proposals for social care funding reform have been repeatedly pushed back, but we say that expanding social care options must start now by creating a world-class system of housing with care. Crucially, this would be a low-cost initiative at a time when the Government has been spending to fight Covid-19 and boost the economy.”
Conservative MP Damian Green, who chairs the All-Party Group for Longevity, said: “We need the swift formation of a housing with care task force. This is not a party political point – it is about doing what is right for the future livelihoods of older people in this country.”
Last week Mr Johnson said the longdelayed proposals for social care reform would be unveiled later this year.