Martin Whitfield MSP has joined a cross-party group of parliamentary colleagues in backing the innovative housing-with-care model as key to tackling the challenges of an ageing population.

In the Scottish Parliament last week, several MSPs pledged their support for new forms of housing and social care, which provide older people with independent living alongside care, support, and a wide range of communal services and facilities.

Housing-with-care is a growing concept, which sits in between the more traditional options of retirement housing and care homes. It has been shown to improve the health and wellbeing of residents by addressing social isolation and providing an environment where older people have appropriate care on site as and when they require it.

This in turn has the holistic benefit of saving money for the NHS and social care by reducing bed blocking and increasing efficiency by delivering care on one site as opposed to visiting several individual homes.

Supply remains very low in Scotland, with just 0.5% of over-65s having the opportunity to live in this type of housing. To close this gap, the Taskforce recommends that Scotland learns from countries like New Zealand and Australia, where 10 times the number of older people live in housing-with-care, owing to innovative regulation and legislation.

The cross-party backing comes a year after the Scottish Housing-with-Care Taskforce was launched in Holyrood, spearheaded by Sovereign Property Partnership and ARCO. It now comprises of over 80 representatives including MSPs, operators, housing associations, developers, legal experts, investors, property experts and local authorities.

A report by the Taskforce found that there was a “glaring” 50,000 unit shortfall in Scotland’s housing-with-care supply versus levels of demand anticipated in their research, published in the Journal of Property Investment and Finance.

Furthermore, the over-65 population is expected to rise by 28% by 2036, up to 1.4 million, so this is a problem which will only continue to get worse if not addressed imminently.

Specific recommendations from the Taskforce include greater clarity in the planning system, strengthened consumer protection regulation, and improved social care integration.

South of the border, an Older People’s Housing Taskforce was announced in last year’s Levelling Up White Paper, expected to be launched imminently by the Department of Health and Social Care and Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Commenting, Martin Whitfield MSP said:

“With the number of older people in Scotland growing rapidly, policy has got to respond by supporting modern options like housing-with-care.

“Greater clarity in the planning system and strengthened consumer protection regulation are vital steps to a thriving housing-with-care sector which gets closer to the levels of New Zealand and Australia.

“The Scottish Housing-with-Care Taskforce are showing that we simply have no alternative but to act now.”

Andrew Fyfe, chair of the Scottish housing with care taskforce, said:

“Many older people want to combine independent living with care and support when needed, which is precisely what housing with care can offer.

“It is the mission of the Scottish housing with care taskforce to make this ambition for change a reality.”