How Can The Housing With Care Sector Achieve Its Potential? (Video)

Published date06 April 2021
Subject MatterEmployment and HR, Real Estate and Construction, Retirement, Superannuation & Pensions, Real Estate, Landlord & Tenant - Leases
Law FirmGowling WLG
AuthorDominic Morris

The benefits of housing with care have really been highlighted during the pandemic, and interest in the sector from potential residents, developers, operators, funders and investors has accelerated.

In this latest podcast from our senior living team, Dominic Morris is joined by Sally Ireland, barrister and head of regulation and compliance at ARCO.

We discuss the need for a housing with care government taskforce and legal reforms to ensure growth within the sector, ARCO's Vision 2030 plan and the importance of its consumer code, and what new operators need to have on their radar before entering the market.



Dominic Morris: Hello! I am Dominic Morris, head of the Senior Living team at Gowling WLG. Today in our Senior Living podcast series, I am delighted to be joined by Sally Ireland, head of regulation and compliance at ARCO, the Associated Retirement Communities Operators. Hi Sally.

Sally: Hi.

Dominic: Hi. So let us jump straight in if we can. For those less familiar with the sector and ARCO, are you able to tell us a little bit about what ARCO does?

Sally: ARCO has been around for about eight years now and it has really a dual purpose. So, firstly it is a trade association in the classic sense - it brings the sector together and acts as the voice of the sector to government and other stakeholders. Secondly, it also sets standards for the sector. We have a programme of self-regulation and assessments that assess members against the consumer code, which is our code for members that sets out how they should operate and how they should protect consumers.

Dominic: Can you tell us a bit about your membership? What sort of body are members of ARCO?

Sally: We have 30 members at the moment, plus a number who want to join the sector and this has accelerated. Our membership is quite broad, and includes the affordable provision, which is actually the majority of provision in this sector.

It also includes some of the big housing associations you would be aware of and 'not for profit' operators of housing with care, and then we also have the 'for profit' providers, some of the more luxury operators that you would also have heard of. We do have quite a broad membership, but one of the nice things is that although most of our members are in competition with each other, we have a very good collegiate spirit between members and people are very happy to share best practice with each other and work together to achieve common goals - it works well.

Dominic: Great. And you personally I think, you are a barrister by trade are you not?

Sally: That is right, yes. I have a background in public law and social care law, two aspects of which are really useful in this role. The first thing that I have done quite a lot of, is legislative drafting, which is pretty dry but it does give you a good insight into law reforms and how they should work. The other thing is that I have a background in representing older and disabled people in disputes around their care and public authorities duties towards them. That obviously gives me an insight into the residents who will be living in housing with care and their needs, from my own experience.

Dominic: So what is on your desk typically, what's a usual day like for you?

Sally: It has two main aspects. One is the law reform work. We are very active at the moment in trying to bring about the changes that we think we need to grow the sector sustainably in terms of changing the law in a number of areas, and also increasing the amount of regulation for the sector. Then the other side of it is setting standards for members. As I said, we have the consumer code and we assess members against it, so we have a programme of regular assessments and work with members to achieve compliance in different areas. I oversee that work as well.

Dominic: Fantastic. A very varied brief!

Sally: Yes. Absolutely.

Dominic: Great! I think quite a good way for people to understand the work that ARCO is doing and indeed, what the priorities are for the wider housing with care sector, is to look at your Vision 2030. Are you able to talk a little bit about that?

Sally: Yes. Vision 2030 is articulating the ambition to have 250,000 people living in housing with care settings by 2030 - it is only nine years away now I have realised, talking to you today. I have not got long to achieve this. We have about 75,000 about the moment. We are looking at a really substantial expansion of the sector, to bring it more in line with other countries like Australia and New Zealand, for example, where retirement communities are very successful and lots and lots of people live in them.

Vision 2030 sets out ten areas that need work and attention to make that vision a reality. That is everything from enhanced health and well-being, creating the evidence base to show the benefits of housing with care, looking at tenure - how people own their property - and how we can better set out the rights and responsibilities of residents and operators. It also looks at workforce, making sure there is a sustainable and suitably skilled workforce for these settings, and funding as well.

There are lots of different areas in the Vision 2030. I think the key one now for the next say 12-24 months, is legal reform and policy reform and the proposals that we are putting forward to government and getting political support for, that we think are needed to grow the sector sustainably.


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