The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a bright light on the UK’s system of care for the elderly, with lots of important lessons to be learnt. But rather than just talking about what society can and should do better in the future, at Legal & General we want to be a driving force behind this change. So we have donated £5 million to enhance elderly care in Newcastle, as part of our Let’s Care for Britain programme, bringing in the lessons learnt from the pandemic so far.
The donation will support a partnership with Newcastle City Council, which is already working to improve care with the NHS and Newcastle University under the Collaborative Newcastle banner, and will benefit two projects. First, and with immediate effect, it will help fund independent living facilities within the Future Homes Alliance project at Newcastle Helix, managed by the City Council’s housing partner Karbon Homes.
The second – and larger – part of the donation will provide funding for a new model of residential care, built around support bubbles and future proofing against some of the issues that have come to light amid the pandemic. As well as staff, these intergenerational clusters will house between 20 and 25 individuals and their partners and even other family members. Residents and staff will form a support bubble in the event of future lockdowns, whether protecting against another Covid-19 outbreak or a bout of winter flu.
It’s about providing the things that institutional care provides really well while also offering very bespoke care.
“As much as the care homes do a wonderful job, when you put them into a pandemic, we are giving them a very difficult thing to rise to. We started to see that large institutions are not the best if you’re trying to minimise the spread of anything,” says Alison McDowell, Director of Adult Social Care & Integrated Services at Newcastle City Council. It’s about providing the things that institutional care provides really well while also offering very bespoke care. Ageing isn’t always a downward trajectory – sometimes people are brilliant in the summer but not so good in the winter – so this model allows us to flex the type of care as required.”
Today there is a seismic leap between people living independently as part of a community and moving to a care home, which can often be quite isolated from wider society. We already know that people tend to see moving into care as finishing living in the community, so the new home’s location and supporting infrastructure will play a key role in its success – something Karbon Homes is very familiar with.
If you start looking at the benefits for wider society, it’s totally reorienting how we do things, in a way that I think we’re going to see more of in the future.
“Our successful Extra Care facilities all have a café within them,” says Charlotte Carpenter, Executive Director of Growth and Business Development at Karbon Homes. “It’s quite common to go in and not only see the elderly people that live there, but young mums who have brought their children in for lunch. Those sorts of approaches to design and facilities, that help to integrate the services, are really important.”
In McDowell’s words: “the art of the possible is incredible when it comes to technology”. And this is a notion that Karbon Homes is using as a driving force for its Future Homes Alliance development, which will be testing out advanced new technologies to improve the quality of life for residents in five “demonstrator homes”. Kelly Taylor, Karbon Homes’ Assistant Director of Specialist Housing, says that this new model of care will incorporate the latest telecare, from technology already in circulation, like call systems, to technology focused on connecting individuals with their loved ones and with the outside world, from being able to video call a relative to reading the news at the press of a button. “It’s about keeping it personal to that individual’s journey,” says Taylor.
Not only is this ‘cluster’ care community a new model of care, but it brings to light a new model of funding, too. “I have no doubt that this sort of development would save the public purse money, because it’s helping people to live well for longer, but it’s very difficult to tie that back and make a business case to fund it,” says Carpenter. “What we’re really piloting here is not only a new model of care but a new model of development and a new model of funding, which is much more holistic and partnership-centric. That’s what the Legal & General donation has enabled – to plug that upfront gap. And if you start looking at the benefits for wider society, it’s totally reorienting how we do things, in a way that I think we’re going to, and need to, see more of in the future.”
Legal & General is a leading investor in the health and life sciences sectors and, through its Let’s Care for Britain initiative, is helping to improve our understanding of care in later life and how it is delivered. Earlier this year, the company partnered with Edinburgh University to launch the Advanced Care Research Centre (ARAC) to help develop research that can enable data-driven, personalised and affordable care that allows older people to live with independence, dignity and a high quality of life either in their own homes or a supported care environment. Read more about the Advanced Care Research Centre here.