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Can A Care Home Share Its Site With A Nursery?

28/06/2017 10:52
kali9 via Getty Images

Everyone think it's 'a lovely idea'. But in the UK there are no examples of a children's nursery based on the same site as an older people's care home or housing scheme.

That will change this autumn when a care home in south west London will share its grounds and facilities with a nursery.

It's the first time in the UK that a nursery has co-located with a care home - although the model can be found in many other countries from the USA to Japan and Singapore, Canada and Australia, and elsewhere in Europe.

Nightingale House, a Jewish care home in Wimbledon, will share its site with the new Apples & Honey nursery. The nursery has just received its Ofsted registration and will formally be admitting children in September.

Last week the nursery held an open day to give families and care home residents a taste of what is to come. Young children and older residents mixed with all generations in a range of activities from a mini sports day to gardening, eating and singing. BBC Breakfast TV were on hand to film this historic first in the UK.

The benefits were clear to see: older people enjoying the activities and companionship, while children were learning through play. And the generations inbetween - parents of the children at the nursery and younger relatives of the care home residents - were mixing too.

The benefits are not just social. The economic benefits of co-location for care providers include sharing back office costs: from maintenance and catering to IT, HR and marketing to training and management. The increasing birthrate and ageing population in the UK mean that there will be a growing demand for both childcare and eldercare, helping create sustainable provision.

The recruitment and retention of staff is one of the biggest issues for many care providers. Experience from other countries shows that co-location can provide opportunities for staff to grow and develop, undertaking new challenges in different settings

Of course there are challenges in shared sites. Safeguarding vulnerable adults and children is critical but manageable with well trained and well supervised staff.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is finding suitable sites - sites that are big enough and in the right location for both childcare and eldercare services.

Experience in the UK and learning from other countries suggest that some existing older people's care homes and housing schemes are likely to have spare land or facilities that could host childcare such as a 60 place nursery, rather than the other way round. That is certainly the case at Nightingale House.

Their development has already shown how much interest there is in the co-location of care. Most eldercare providers do not have the experience of setting up childcare provision. So while using existing sites with spare capacity seems to be the best option in the short to medium term, care homes need expertise in making it happen.

What will be crucial now is an evaluation of Apples & Honey Nightingale and the multiple social and economic benefits for all ages.

Interestingly Nightingale House is a not for profit Jewish care home and Apples & Honey nursery is being set up as a social enterprise and will take children of all faiths or none.

As with so much pioneering social innovation before them, faith groups are leading the way here and elsewhere.

Ending age apartheid is certainly a big prize. In these dark days we certainly need more hope and promise, with communities coming together where young and old have for too long been segregated and isolated.

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