March 10, 2022

Article

Mark Hickman, Director of Chandler & Co, shares his thoughts on the current situation in the sector and what the future holds.

Starting with a reflection of the last two years we can conclude that the care sector like many others has shown its resilience and, despite the challenges, will continue to do so. Care Home deals definitely picked up apace in the final quarter of 2021, with a positive outlook from funding applications and investors alike.

So what are the challenges in the sector now, and what is on the horizon?

The last two years saw a slowdown in care home assets coming to the market, whilst owners buckled down to protect their residents and staff during the pandemic. With Government funding, there was enhanced investment in Infection Protection Control and digitisation was accelerated, with more emphasis on staff wellbeing and training remotely. Trust in Care Home safety has moved into positive territory, with the regulator evolving as appropriate to strengthen its position as families and third parties seek assurance from their rating and inspection reports.

Although operators suffered from reduced occupancy in the early stages of the pandemic this started to turn around during 2021, as providers adjusted their systems and processes and opened their doors to new residents subject to safe staffing levels. Staffing difficulties have been well publicised, and this situation will continue to be a focus in the immediate future. However, the inclusion of carers on the Short Occupation List (SOL) and the Health and Care Worker Visa, will no doubt assist recruitment. Utilising the Government’s strategy for the sector with the £60m Adult Social Care Omicron Support Fund, which is in addition to the £388m infection control and testing fund announced in 2021, will help support recruitment and retention.

2022 will no doubt continue to offer challenges to the sector but its resilience will continue, with first time owner buyers coming to the market as well as those seeking their second or third home, in addition to an increasing merger and acquisition market. Interest from investors abroad also continues. The Care Quality Commission intends to recognise improvement through re-rating, which will be vitally important for the sale and acquisition process, together with new guidance on the ‘Right Support, Right Culture’ for registering a service supporting people with a learning disability. Inspection activity will be targeted at services needing it the most, from new registrations to existing services, for an up to date view of the risk and service quality, including good practice. These reports will continue to be of great importance for providers, service receivers and third parties alike.

The future of the care sector is that it is here to stay. There will always be a need and the need is growing, probably even more so as the pandemic plays out. Confidence in the sector remains, despite the challenges, and we can expect a busy year ahead. Fee increases will continue to evolve across the sector together with operational costs, to be met with a changing public and Government perception of funding and responsibility and ownership of care. Looking ahead the Care Home and broader care sector is open to investment, through acquisition and care home asset improvement.

For further information regarding buying a care home and running a care home visit ‘buyacarehome.com’ and ‘ownacarehome.com,’ sponsored by Care Home specialist Finance Brokers Chandler & Co, where the brokerage team arrange finance packages for all aspects of funding.

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