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
    restrictive.

    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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