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Summary: ASSET is an independent research project commissioned and funded by the Department of Health’s NIHR School for Social Care Research. The project runs from February 2012 to January 2014 and is being led by the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester, in partnership with the Personal Social Services Research Unit at the University of Kent, the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol, Housing 21 and the Housing Learning and Improvement Network. The overall aim of this project is to explore how best to provide adult social care in housing with care schemes in England, in order to maximise quality of life for residents and make the best use of resources.

Background: Extra care housing schemes and retirement villages (known collectively as ‘housing with care’) have become increasingly popular in the UK during the past ten years. The government has provided significant funding for these settings because of their capacity to support independence for older people in their own homes. Housing with care is very popular among those living in such schemes for a range of reasons, including the opportunities for social interaction, the availability of comprehensive facilities on site, and because the physical environment is purpose built to meet the needs of older people.

One of the key features of housing with care is the availability of on-site care and support that can meet the needs of a diverse range of residents and can be adapted as residents’ needs change. However, it is a complex model involving a range of partners and considerable flexibility is required in order to provide services that maximise quality of life for residents. As a result, care and support is commissioned and provided in many different ways. Whichever model is in use, the input of adult social care is crucial. For many residents their needs are assessed by their local Adult Social Services Department before they move in, along with their eligibility for funding to support those needs. Some residents qualify for council-funded care while others purchase all or part of the care they need, either from the local authority or another provider.

Councils are also responsible for developing strategic approaches to enhance the housing with care choices for older people, including the move towards personalisation. However, there is little information about how adult social care is provided in housing with care schemes. What is known is that adult social care is a large and complicated system. In 2008/09, a total of £16.1 billion was spent on delivering adult social care in England, involving 13,000 provider organisations with 1.3 million employees. A range of on-going changes will also impact on the commissioning of adult social care, including policies of personalisation, prevention and reablement; a reduction in the public resources to invest in social services, and proposed changes to the system for funding care and support.

In order to explore how best to provide adult social care in housing with care schemes in England, we have brought together a team that includes experienced researchers from three universities, experts from the housing with care industry and people with unique knowledge of government policy and strategy in this area. We will also recruit an expert panel to advise the team throughout the project. This will include housing with care residents and their relatives, people who work in adult social care and others who train social care staff.

Project Activities: The project has 4 main stages:

  1. A review of what is already known about adult social care and housing with care.
  2. An electronic survey of adult social care providers and housing with care organisations to identify what models of working are in use.
  3. In depth case studies of housing with care schemes to explore in detail how they work with adult social care, the experiences of residents and relatives of receiving services, and the cost of different models of care.
  4. Communication of our findings to a wide range of audiences including residents and relatives, professionals working in social care, housing and health, and academic communities. The project findings will be disseminated in a variety of ways. These include a report on the literature, descriptions of existing models of adult social care, an analysis of the cost-effectiveness of Adult Social Care interventions and recommendations for best practice in commissioning Adult Social Care provision nationally in housing with care settings.

 For more information see the project website at http://assetproject.wordpress.com/ or contact Simon Evans, Senior Research Fellow, Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester. 01905 542511; Simon.Evans@worc.ac.uk