It ain’t fancy, but it’s cheap

By Caring Times editor GEOFF HODGSON

Last week the care sector’s oracle Wiiliam Laing published his august opinion that we now have a two-tier market. Well, we all knew that but it’s nice to have it authoritatively confirmed by the level-headed number cruncher that is LaingBuisson.

We are all similarly cognisant that care home providers in the south (and in some pockets elsewhere) are racing each other to find suitable sites where they can build luxury care homes catering to the affluent self-pay market. I wonder, however, how many of us have been watching what is happening in the wastelands of the north.

As a model of care provision, assisted living has been around for at least 15 years but now it seems that its roots have gained purchase in the impoverished soils north of Watford. Not a week goes by but I receive a press release about another assisted living project that has been given planning permission, is under construction or has just celebrated its official opening.

It makes a lot of sense. Local authorities can no longer afford to pay a fair market price for residential care in a care home and assisted living is the obvious answer, with relatively low construction costs and high density enabling carefully rationed domiciliary care to be deployed with greater efficiency. The model is also better insulated from the vagaries of regulation – it’s only the care provider that has to be safe, caring, responsive, effective and well-led, and if they’re not, well the provider can be changed by the stroke of a pen on a homecare contract.

So this, I think, is the future scenario: nursing homes we will always have, residential care will be on offer only to those who can pay for it out of their private purse and assisted living will fill the considerable breach.

Dementia is the fly in the ointment and I imagine that local authorities hope that money saved by going down the assisted living route will go some way to funding people who require care in a specialist facility in the later stages of the condition.

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