Ex-minister Burstow launches commission to rehabilitate residential care

Commission will examine how residential care can become more valued part of care system and become a positive choice for older people with high support needs.

Paul Burstow
Former care minister Paul Burstow (photo credit: Gary Brigden)

Ex-care minister Paul Burstow today launches a commission to rehabilitate the standing of residential care and make it a positive choice for older people with high support needs.

Burstow will chair the year-long Commission on Residential Care, established by think-tank Demos, to examine how care homes can become a more valued part of the spectrum of care. The commission’s starting point is that an additional 239,000 people aged over 85 will require round-the-clock care, meaning there will need to be a future for residential care.

It will examine issues including the current financial pressures on the sector – driven by squeezes on local authority fees – negative stereotypes of residential care fuelled by media reporting and the extent to which care homes can diversify into providing intermediate care for the NHS in order to reduce pressures on hospitals. The commission will also look at how older people can be provided with a range of housing options in later life, as their support needs increase.

In a speech to launch the commission today, Burstow will call for a “reappraisal of the role of residential care” to rehabilitate its reputation.

“For many the thought of residential care is a source of dread, an unwelcome last resort,” he will say. “Media reporting of care has fuelled the negative stereotype. Yet care homes can be places of light and laughter, a home from home. The goal must be to give people a real housing choice in later life, rather than a fire sale as things start to fall apart. Adaptations and staying put, yes, but moving as a genuine choice too.”

“Demographic change – not least an explosion in the number of very old people with complex needs and dementia – means residential care should become a more vital part of a modern care system, not less,” said Demos deputy director Claudia Wood.

“To do this the sector must pro-actively grasp the challenges is faces and show that it can deliver personalised, empowering care. It’s not just a last resort, but a place people choose to live in a more social environment.”

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