A new take on residential care for the elderly?

As the care sector faces increasing costs and concerns over service, one businessman is calling for support for a not-for-profit approach, discovers Emma Newlands.

The planned venture comes as the elderly population rises. Picture: Esme Allen
The planned venture comes as the elderly population rises. Picture: Esme Allen

Public spending watchdog The Accounts Commission said in a recent study of the Scottish social work sector that the number of people of pensionable age was set to grow over 25 years to 2037 by 27 per cent.

It also reported that in 2014/15, councils’ net spending on social work services was £3.1 billion, with those for older people the largest share at about 44 per cent of the total and set to increase further in tandem with the growth in this part of the population.

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Amid such greater need and spiralling costs, there are also concerns that quality is failing to keep pace, but looking to reverse these trends and shake up the sector is Doug More, chief executive of Edinburgh-based IT business Assure APM.

Assure APM chief Doug More plans to start his own care home network. Picture: Alex Hewitt

He is looking to start up his own care home network, motivated by his belief that it is “obscene” that currently the elderly are put in a home “that quite frequently isn’t fit for purpose”. It is part of his desire to give something back after a career spanning more than 40 years in the tech industry, and having come out of retirement to grow Assure APM.

Its clients include Barchester Healthcare, which has more than 200 care homes across the UK and receives strong praise from More regarding its progress since it started out in 2002.

He hopes to launch his venture as a not-for-profit project called Seniors, and is putting together a business model and speaking to experts in the social enterprise and care sectors amid efforts to move the plans from drawing board to reality. Feedback so far is that it is “a solid model”, he stated.

Assure APM chief Doug More plans to start his own care home network. Picture: Alex Hewitt

According to his calculations, it will reduce the costs both of running and being a resident at a care home by about 40 per cent, helping cut spend by local authorities. Savings will come in part from some staff at the homes being classified as working associates, and they will get credits for working at the home, enabling them to be part of the enterprise, that they can either use for a friend or family member or even themselves when the time comes to be admitted to the home.

They will comprise about 40 per cent of the organisation and include “the whole gambit of professional people that you need for a care home” such as lawyers, doctors and nurses. Their stake in its future will mean the level of care “will go through the ceiling”, More also believes.

Having calculated funding, the plan is to open the first home within a year, “and then hopefully get it to take off and help to solve this huge problem we’ve got in the UK for old people’s care,” he adds. “In the fullness of time I’d like the whole concept to spread across the UK.”

He hopes to follow in the footsteps of Barchester Healthcare’s growth, and aims to have 200 homes across the UK within ten years.

That said, many hi-tech advances are looking to help people stay in their own homes for longer. Earlier this month, a service matching home carers with the elderly launched across the UK, citing research finding that 95 per cent of older people want to stay in their homes. HomeTouch, backed by venture capital, said it uses “the most advanced technology in the industry”.

And there have been concerns raised about the outlook for the elderly residential care sector from an industry veteran. Robert Kilgour, founder and chairman of Renaissance Care, said earlier this year that he is concerned that a “tipping point” could be on the cards after a prolonged period of financial challenges. “We are seeing more homes closing and fewer new ones being built at a time when the demographic shows the need for more,” he said. That said, Renaissance is set grow turnover to nearly £20 million this year from £17.2m last year.

More’s plans also follow news in the recent Budget of a boost for the social care sector south of the Border. Trade body Scottish Care said in response: “In Scotland we face similar challenges… The sustainability of both care homes and care at home services [are] under increasing threat and challenge.

“Running costs for most organisations have increased significantly in the last few months… we want to work to ensure that the provision of care is sufficiently funded to ensure the rights and dignity of our older citizens are upheld.”

More echoes this sentiment, saying he wants to see an end to care homes offering less-than-ideal service, and instead “give our old people real dignity and joy as they go through their last few years”.

He also says he wants to see every care home in Scotland operate like the model he is envisioning, with “second-to-none” service, and is calling for like-minded people to come forward who want to collaborate on his plans, so “we then can all share the workload and get this thing moving”.