Simon Arnold, Tunstall’s Managing Director and CORC (Commission on Residential Care) Commissioner reflects on the Commission’s findings, which are being reported this week.

The care home sector is under greater scrutiny than ever over the quality of its services. Perceptions of residential care are largely negative and many homes are operating under financial constraints, against the backdrop of a changing landscape and ageing population.

Over the last year CORC has united experts and practitioners to evaluate the role of residential care in a modern system. With evidence gathered from care providers, care home residents and staff, Demos has published a report which explores the issues affecting residential care in the UK.

The need for change

Our residential system needs to change to deliver on the outcomes people expect. But why is the system failing? In compiling the report we unearthed several key issues which surround the concept of residential care and prevent its successful delivery. In particular, the report considers how we can reverse negative perceptions of the traditional ‘care home’ and enable a future where ‘housing with care’ can enhance the lives of residents by promoting personalised support.

The value of ‘housing with care’ doesn’t always translate into public consciousness. Indeed, many people feel unhappy at the thought of ‘going into a home’. Those approaching later life want to retain dignity and a sense of independence: they want to feel a sense of belonging and have the opportunity to explore new things, not feel restricted in what they can do.

Moving into a care home is viewed by many as something that could reduce quality of life. This is partly the result of a perceived lack of choice when it comes to care home admission. Individuals worry they may be forced into living in ‘institutionalised’ surroundings, and without information on the options available and benefits residential care can offer, including the benefits of assistive technology, this concern is likely to remain.

From care home to housing with care

Care homes can and should offer a positive experience. Housing with care is not about restricting lives; it’s about helping people to gain (or regain) independence, and can include the opportunity to learn new skills and achieve empowerment. But how do we position facilities as ‘housing with care’, emphasising that they are housing first, with integrated person-centred care packages as a secondary? How can we ensure that future schemes offer the services, benefits and support we know to be possible to provide personalised packages in line with the needs and desires of each individual?

The answer may lie in taking inspiration from projects where housing with care is working. By integrating personalised support packages with technology, services can be transformed to ensure people maintain independence and autonomy as their needs change. In compiling the report, we looked at several case studies. In the case of Hatton Grove, a variety of telecare solutions – including epilepsy, bed occupancy, door and movement sensors – are being used to deliver personalised care and enhance the lives of residents at the facility. Care workers trust telecare and find it a great support to them in their roles, allowing them to spend more quality time with residents by accommodating their individual needs and interests more effectively. There exist many such examples across the UK to support the health and care needs of people as they move into a ‘housing with care’ environment.

With greater insight and use of a variety of technology enabled services, the ‘care home’ environment can evolve into a virtual support network that can cater for mixed needs, meaning that those with more complex requirements can co-exist in an environment that also accommodates higher levels of independence.

This is the vision for the future – moving on from the ‘care home’ to ‘housing with care’.

Read the CORC report