New Consumer Code launched to bolster downsizers’ confidence in moving to retirement communities
- New Consumer Code launched to set standards for housing-with-care sector
- Code supported by robust compliance framework including independent assessments
- Key focus on clarity and transparency for consumers, providing consistency in a growing sector
ARCO (the Associated Retirement Community Operators) today launched a new Consumer Code to provide a benchmark for good practice within the housing-with-care sector. The Code applies specifically to properties for rent or purchase in retirement communities. These developments go beyond housing provision and include additional services such as dining and leisure activities alongside optional care services.
Demand for housing-with-care is growing as more and more older people seek inspirational downsizing options which enable them to live active and independent lifestyles. ARCO established the Code in order to create a clear framework for the operation and delivery of housing-with-care. This will enable consumers to make informed choices and to maintain and increase confidence in the sector.
The introduction of the ARCO Consumer Code means that ARCO members will adhere to provisions laid out in the Code which go above and beyond their statutory duties. Prospective residents will be given clear and transparent information about fees and service charges well before they decide to move in. Retirement community operators will also need to provide core levels of services in retirement communities, and must maintain a fair and consultative relationship with residents.
To ensure that standards are met, the Code is supported by a robust compliance framework. External assessors will conduct independent reviews of services against the Consumer Code on ARCO’s behalf.
Richard Davis, Chair of ARCO, said: “Deciding to move into a retirement community gives many people a new lease of life. But we understand that any move can be a big decision. Our Consumer Code is designed to give older people further peace of mind that the operator they have chosen has committed to maintaining high standards.”
Michael Voges, ARCO’s Executive Director, put it in context: “The introduction of the Code marks the culmination of two years of work to agree a common set of high standards for the sector. We have now embarked on an ambitious timetable of assessing members against the Code, and we look forward to working with our members under the new compliance framework.”
The Code was launched at an event in the House of Lords, hosted by Baroness Sally Greengross, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ageing and Older People. A keynote speech was given by Law Commissioner Stephen Lewis, who spoke about the importance of clear disclosure of event fees.
Law Commissioner Stephen Lewis said of the use of event fees in residential leases: “Transparency and clarity are vital in order to protect consumers in this sector. We recently published a consultation paper on event fees and how they should be disclosed. We are keen to receive feedback on our provisional proposals.”
Notes to Editors
The Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) is the main body representing the retirement community sector in the UK. There are currently 24 ARCO members, representing more than 400 retirement communities and over 50 per cent of all housing-with-care schemes in the UK. ARCO members include both private providers and not-for-profit providers.
ARCO members include:
Anchor, Audley, Berkeley Healthcare Ltd., Family Mosaic, Genesis, Guinness Partnership, Hanover, Housing & Care 21, Jewish Care, LifeCare Residences, MHA, Middleton Hall Retirement Village, Midland Heart, One Housing, Rangeford, Renaissance Villages, Retirement Security, Retirement Villages, Richmond Villages, Sanctuary Home Care, St Monica Trust, The ExtraCare Charitable Trust, The Orders of St John Care Trust, and Trafford Housing Trust.
Retirement communities combine high quality housing options for older people with tailored support services. Unlike care homes, they allow residents to rent or own a property and to maintain their privacy and independence. But in contrast to traditional retirement housing, they also offer the reassurance of 24-hour on-site staff, communal facilities and optional care and support as needed. Retirement communities may also be referred to as retirement villages, extra care housing, housing-with-care, assisted living schemes, very sheltered housing, or close care.
ARCO commissions external consultants to undertake regular and ongoing assessments of members against the ARCO Consumer Code. ARCO has also established a Standards Committee to oversee compliance issues, and members must comply with recommendations made by this committee. ARCO’s Board has agreed that membership of ARCO shall be dependent on signing up to the wider compliance framework against the Code, including the external assessments.
The full code can be downloaded from www.arcouk.org/consumercode
Case study: Retirement Village resident David Tunney on the need for clarity and transparency
David and Mavis Tunney (both 74) live in Shenley Wood Retirement Village in Milton Keynes, run by the ExtraCare Charitable Trust (an ARCO members). They moved in three years ago from a large five bed detached house which had outgrown their needs.
David worked for HMRC and later as a tax consultant, and both he and his wife are now active volunteers within the village, with David also chairing the villages’ residents association. David says: “In making our choice we rejected models which offered just housing; we wanted to be part of a real community. We are fortunate to be part of the few who have had the chance to move to a village like this – there are not enough of them around. Our thinking was that, as we aged, the five bed house would slowly become too much for us, particularly for a surviving spouse and with the children far away. Our home is now used by a younger generation. We have now done the big downsize, we are safe and secure with care available on site, and our finances are set to match our means for the rest of our lives. Another good feature is the age mix of Villagers. We are young and fit; some less so.”
David was very much aware of some controversy about management charges/agents in some retirement housing flats. “You read too many stories about greedy agents and developers, and the last thing we wanted to worry about was being taken for a ride. But the Extra Care Charitable Trust’s open system means that is unlikely to happen in our retirement village. We found the process very clear so that we could make our own decision. One element in the ExtraCare Charitable Trust’s business plan is a 1% annual deduction (max 10%) made at the end of a lease based on years of occupancy. It was explained at the start and we liked the certainty it gives and the fact that the deduction forms the sinking fund for long term repair/renewal of the building.
David supports ARCO’s attempts to set and maintain standards in the housing-with-care sector: “We were lucky that we chose a good operator. If ARCO and its members start promoting openness and transparency across the board, that can only be a good thing.”
”Our children are very happy with our choice. They know we are safe, sound, with friends, care there when needed; they know that when one is left that will remain the case. This is long term thinking; we needed to be clear about our future. The ExtraCare Charitable Trust’s retirement village concept makes that possible.”
For more information please contact:
Alex Delaney, firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 8533 8893 / 07709832453 or
Maia Beresford, email@example.com, 07495 721 265 / 020 3697 1204