Property developers to take leading role in building extra care housing

Private property developers will build most extra care housing
(ECH) schemes for older people in the future, the community health
minister Stephen Ladyman predicted this week.

However, he confessed to being disappointed that the private sector
had so far resisted his overtures to join ECH partnerships.
Private developers attending the Laing and Buisson conference in
London argued that local authorities were resistant to private
sector involvement and that planning regulations were too

Ladyman hinted that the forthcoming green paper on adults’ services
would spell out changes to the planning regime.

“If you put a gun to my head I would say most common schemes in the
future are going to be entirely privately owned,” he said.
Ladyman announced 21 successful partnership bids to the
government’s £40m ECH fund.

The largest award, £9.8m, is to develop an extra care
“retirement village” in Hartlepool, which will also accommodate
facilities for the local community.

But considerable barriers remain to developing ECH in public sector
partnerships – notably cuts to Supporting People funding, the
minister was told.

“Supporting People is presenting a massive obstacle to developing
ECH schemes that have Department of Health funding,” said Ron
Bramley, chief executive of the Thomas Pocklington Trust, a housing
charity for blind people.

But Diane Henderson, head of support and diversity at the National
Housing Federation, argued that ECH projects for older people had
“considerably more room for manoeuvre” than most, due to the
variety of funding streams that supplied them.

One care home owner and would-be developer complained that York
City Council refused to designate ECH as “affordable housing” – a
position Ladyman described as “frankly barking”.

There were also complaints that the Commission for Social Care
Inspection classifies ECH as residential rather than domiciliary
care (although last November the CSCI announced a radical review of
its inspection regime).

John Weeks, director of social services and health at Cheshire
Council, was concerned that the population of his area was ageing.
He said strict rules prevented councils from diverting education
funds to older people, while the advent of foundation schools
threatened to put school land out of reach for ECH development.

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