Yes, Minister, we need more intergenerational care for young and old

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The health minister's support for intergenerational care is a welcome boost for this growing movement, says Stephen Burke of United for All Ages

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The recognition by Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, of the benefits of mixing for older and younger people is a major step forward. It reflects the fact that many nurseries are now linking with care homes across the UK and a growing number are becoming co-located.
 
These nurseries and care homes are all part of a growing grassroots movement bringing older and younger people together. Boosted by TV coverage of the care-home nursery model, many providers recognise that it’s the right thing to do.
 
Much of the focus has been on the benefits for older people in reducing isolation and loneliness and improving physical and mental health. But many childcare providers can also see how it helps children’s development from language and social skills to boosting confidence at a time of rising child poverty and mental health issues. There are also benefits for the staff and for the families involved as well as for care providers.
 
Unfortunately much of our society is divided and Britain is one of the most age segregated countries in the world. Many children have no regular contact with older people and vice versa. This leads to exclusion and isolation, lack of trust and ageism, and ultimately it divides our country.
 
In response we have seen more and more visits by nurseries to care homes, often inspired by Channel 4’s 'Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds'. Such visits are the first steps towards closer working by childcare and eldercare providers and closer relationships between older and younger people.      
 
Some older people’s care homes and care-with-housing schemes have now identified space on their sites – either existing or new sites – where a nursery can be accommodated. This enables daily interaction (planned as part of the early years curriculum as well as spontaneous) between children at the nursery and the older residents.    
 
The benefits for providers of such an approach are both social and economic. They can share costs such as catering, grounds and building maintenance, and other back office functions. Residents and children are happier, and that also makes the staff’s jobs easier and more rewarding.

Some nurseries also provide ‘workplace’ childcare for the care workers, thereby helping retain staff. And it’s a marketing opportunity to families with childcare and eldercare needs across the life course. Ultimately it will improve care for children and for older people.
 
The benefits of intergenerational care have been recognised by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission. Earlier this year Ofsted issued guidance to its inspectors on inspecting new and existing provision where nurseries and childminders are based at care homes. And Nightingale House in London where Apples and Honey nursery is based was recently rated as outstanding by CQC, citing the positive intergenerational interactions.
 
Now that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has endorsed the care-home nursery model, we hope the government will support its roll out. United for All Ages is working with providers to create 500 centres for all ages by 2023. Matt Hancock’s support will help make it happen. 

  • Stepehn Burke and Denise Burke will be leading a session on the benefits of intergenerational care and co-location, along with Omair Haider of Millennium Care UK, at Nursery World's Business Summit on 14 November. More information and tickets here.
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