England’s largest councils call for housing to be featured prominently in government’s social care green paper
With elderly households in rural areas set to rise at ‘unprecedented’ levels over the next two decades, county leaders are calling on government to ensure that the paper encourages planning reforms to address the dearth of retirement and supported housing in the country.
A new report from the County Councils Network (CCN) – Sustainable Social Care: A Green Paper that Delivers a New Deal for Counties – sets out the network’s policy positions on adult social care ahead of the government social care green paper, and argues that housing must form a focal part of the solution to the social care crisis.
To CCN, counties need a more prominent role in planning and administering grant funding, whilst government must provide the impetus for developers to build supported housing.
Cllr David Williams, CCN health and social care spokesman, said: “Our analysis of population projections shows the very real prospect of the country sleepwalking into a hidden elderly housing crisis, with a real dearth of later living properties to fulfil demand and a shortage of adequate accommodation for when people are ready to leave hospital.
“Failure to address this now will only store up problems for the future, especially on the wider health service.
“The status quo is no longer an option; ministers must be bold in ensuring sustainable financial reform, both for the system and for individuals.
“With care services and the NHS interdependent, investing in one but not the other is financially irresponsible.”
Population projections show that the number of over-85 households in county areas are set to balloon by 155% by 2039, rising from 491,000 to 1,254 million.
This growth in rural areas represents over half the country’s entire projected growth in over-85s, whilst the amount of over-65s will rise by 1.9 million to become 28% of the total population in counties.
The report finds that only 1% of over-60s in England are living in retirement properties, with an estimated 30,000 a year estimated to be needed to fulfil demand; but only 7,200 such properties are developed per year, Demos found last year.
To provide the housing elderly residents need, and to reduce pressure on social care services, the report recommends a four-pronged approach:
- National housing policy should be strengthened to ensure that planning authorities have clear policies for addressing housing requirements of groups with specific needs
In particular, the government should make Part M (4) Category 2 (accessible, adaptable) the mandatory minimum for the construction of all new homes, the equivalent of the former Lifetime Homes standard
- With patients in county two-tier areas likely to be 10% more delayed in being discharged from hospital because they are awaiting the installation of specialist equipment or adaptions in their housing, there must be a closer alignment between social care authorities (county councils) and district councils (planning authorities) in planning for disabled facilities and administering grant funding
- Government must consider how to encourage developers to increase the level of construction of retirement housing, potentially by changing its planning classification
At present, retirement housing currently falls into the same planning class as general use housing. This means retirement housing developers face the same Section 106 charges to fund affordable housing as developers of general housing.
- With housing and social care intrinsically linked, county councils should have a stronger role in the planning process in two-tier areas.
CCN has argued that the county council’s role in the proposed statement of common ground must be strengthened, and they should be a formal signatory on matters relating to adult social care.
The government’s recent consultation on short-term supported housing proposed that upper-tier authorities in two-tier areas should lead on the development of a Supported Housing Strategic Plan.
CCN believes this would sensibly link with the market-shaping duties of upper-tier local authorities, as well as the provision of equipment and adaptations through DFGs.