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European conference on care services for elderly people and the credit crunch

by abilleter 27. November 2008 09:54

On 21 November 2008, I attended in Brussels Better Life Time 2008, the annual conference of the European Network (EAHSA) a section of the International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing www.iahsa.net , a professional body of providers of services for the elderly and care home industry in particular. 

The event was hosted by the Belgium bank Dexia and SODEXO, a company providing catering and other services for older people in care and health establishments throughout Europe. 

The theme of the conference was Ageing: from worries to opportunities, and reviewed the market under three main topics: Finance, Services and Real Estate.  The presentations (15) were generally good and informative, as was the Panel Discussion that followed it. I hope that the ppt presentations will soon be available on the Internet. 

It is a great pity that only Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, France, Sweden and The Netherlands were represented, and that there was no presentation on the achievements and prospects for this industry in the UK where new developments such as Extra Care Housing seems to be ahead of what is being developed in Europe to meet the housing and care needs of older people. 

Main points made at the conference

Effect of the credit crunch

• Despite the present financial crisis there is optimism that the care industry is alive and well, and that its market offers good opportunities for expansion, and for investors and developers.

• In France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and also Italy, the building of housing and care homes for older people (mostly for rental) seems much less affected by the credit crunch than in the UK where the housing market is dominated by home ownership.

• The effect of the credit crunch will be felt, not so much because authorities are not ready to invest, but because there will be less money in the public purse. In France, despite the need for more nursing homes, less money is likely to be allocated to this sector.

• In Germany the private sector already is hampered by its inability to borrow money for new projects.

Care services

• On the whole, on the continent, there is not a great deal of price difference between the private and the public sector.

• In France, in particular, this is because all care homes in all sectors are full, so there is no competition.

• In Germany, and probably everywhere else, the public sector models set the standards for the private sector.

• In Europe, governments have to set the conditions, standards of care service for a fast developing private market. The best innovation so far, and likely to take on throughout Europe, is the introduction of individual budget, as now fully operational in the Netherlands (?). This is going to have a considerable influence on the range or services that may have to be developed

• There seems however to be agreement that care at home is the most expensive form of delivery of care to older people

• It was also stated that there was no doubt that extra care housing is cheaper than ‘nursing homes’. This was not discussed, and is certainly not the conclusion in the UK, where people still argue the cost benefits of ECH versus residential care homes let alone nursing home

New developments

• The conference talked much about diversifying, new models of housing with care, yet the care industry seems to continue to bank on the care home model.

• However for Germany, the future of the market lies not in specialised housing, but in lifetime homes and the upgrade.

• It is not difficult to put together and obtain finance for the development of sheltered or care homes, but the essential problem remains: how to guarantee the delivery of services.

• In PPP in particular, local authorities find it difficult give account of what happened to the funds directed to the services provided by private companies.

New areas of growth

• Financial products to help elderly people pay for care

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