What is extra care housing?
Extra care housing is a form of sheltered housing that provides a higher level of support. For example, help with personal care is available to those who need it.
Extra care is sometimes known as ‘housing with care’, ‘very sheltered housing’, ‘assisted living’ or ‘close care’.
Residents live in self-contained homes – often a flat or bungalow – but care staff are available to help with getting in and out of bed, washing and dressing. They might also help with cleaning or provide meals. Care staff are sometimes based onsite (for example, if the accommodation is part of a care home complex), but can also be community based, and are typically available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
How to find an extra care housing scheme
Similar to other forms of sheltered housing, extra care properties are available to rent or buy. Schemes are operated by private care providers as well as local councils, charities and housing associations.
Renting an extra care property
The majority of rental properties are run by local councils and housing associations. You will need to meet a set of eligibility criteria in order to qualify for a place. Ask your local authority for information about schemes operating in your area. There are also some privately operated extra care properties available to rent, although these are less common and usually be more expensive.
Read more about council and housing association sheltered housing.
Buying an extra care property
You can buy an extra care housing property as you would a normal leasehold property.
This type of housing generally involves additional costs, such as a service charge, and other additional fees. The lease may also contain certain restrictions on what you can do if you want to sell the property or pass it on to someone in your will.
Before buying into an extra care scheme, ask for a full breakdown of fees and charges, and make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions of the lease.
Read more about buying a sheltered housing property.
What are the different types of extra care housing?
If you’re keen to explore the idea of extra care housing, read more about the different types of tenure or ownership that are available.
- Rented only: all residents rent their property from the housing provider. There will be a weekly or monthly rent and usually an additional service charge. There may be charges for additional services, such as care and meals.
- Leasehold only: all residents have bought the property from the housing provider and pay a monthly service charge. There might also be additional care charges, so check before purchasing.
- Mixed tenure: some residents have bought the lease and some residents are renting from the housing provider. Both tenants and leaseholders are eligible for the same personal care and support services if they meet the criteria or are paying for the services.
- Close care: retirement accommodation attached to a care home, with residents buying in meals/care as needed.
- Shared ownership: some sheltered and extra care housing developers will have a shared ownership option where tenants can part buy and part rent. Typically, you can purchase between 25% and 75% of the scheme and you’ll pay rent based on the share of the property that you do not own.
I heard about extra care homes that had sheltered accommodation, communal areas and well-trained carers.
You can read more detailed information about how extra care housing is designed, managed and funded on the Housing LIN website.
Benefits of extra care housing
Extra care housing can enable you to live an independent lifestyle, while still providing the care and support you need. Care can be provided flexibly and be tailored to your individual needs.
Research by the ExtraCare Charitable Trust shows that extra care housing can help people to manage long-term conditions and be discharged from hospital more quickly. It can also help people to recover from hospital stays successfully and quickly, and for some people it will prevent or delay the need to move into a care home.
Unlike regular sheltered housing, extra care housing is regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). You can search for inspection reports and ratings for an extra care provider on the CQC website.
Extra care housing is a specialised kind of sheltered housing. Read our checklist on the benefits and drawbacks of sheltered housing:
Disadvantages of extra care housing
- Renting: most extra care rental opportunities are provided by local councils or housing associations. There are strict eligibility criteria, so not everyone will be able to secure a place.
- Buying: you may face restrictions if you want to sell the property later and may have to pay an exit fee.
- Costs: extra care housing can entail expensive service charges and additional fees, and these costs may go up as your needs increase.
It’s common within extra care housing for all residents to have to pay a minimum contribution towards care services, regardless of whether they require any support themselves. So, it’s advisable to enquire about these charges and the typical costs for higher levels of care, should you need them in the future.
Extra care housing for residents with dementia
Some extra care housing schemes have been built with special consideration given to residents with dementia. They may contain features such as:
- the use of familiar objects and furniture to aid orientation
- different rooms/sections of the house painted different colours instead of a clinical white throughout, to aid orientation
- curved furniture, so residents are less likely to bump into it
- safe outside spaces so that residents can enjoy the fresh air without getting lost or wandering too far.
However, extra care housing shouldn't necessarily be viewed as an alternative to a care home. People living with dementia often have complex care needs, and a care home may be better placed to provide the best levels of support required to ensure their safety.
For more information on extra care housing schemes and other accommodation options for older people with dementia, contact the adult social care department of your local authority or HousingCare to find out if there are schemes in your area for people with dementia.
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