Extra care and sheltered housing

This page has technical information about two forms of specialist provision intended for older people, usually aged 55 or over.
They don't have to be just for older people. They can be allocated to younger people with a learning disability but are particularly relevant for older people including those with learning and/ or physical impairments.

Sheltered housing is usually a small block of 20-40 flats or bungalows. There will be some communal facilities like a lounge and possibly a laundry and guest suite. The dwellings are purpose designed for older people and will incorporate at least an alarm system. There will usually be a visiting or on site warden. Their roles vary from being a 'good neighbour' and providing help in an emergency to a more professional ìcare co-ordinatorî or manager.

There are sometimes reservations about thinking of sheltered housing as an option for disabled people as it implies grouping people together and a possible separation from the community. However, for some older people, who are not disabled, it is a positive choice. People can rent or choose to buy so this must also be a consideration for older people with a learning disability. It is not however, going to suit everyone.

Extra care extends the basic sheltered concept. Developments vary but typically there will be more extensive communal facilities including a lounge, activities room, IT suite, shop, provision for at least some meals, which is commonly by incorporation of a restaurant or cafÈ in the scheme, and 24 hour care available on site through a team of carers. Extra care schemes are again based on a collection of self-contained dwellings but can be much bigger extending to extra care villages of up to 300 properties.

How to access

Both ordinary sheltered housing and extra care can be applied for by older people with a learning disability alongside anyone else. Extra care in particular can offer a very appropriate solution. In cases where the individual needs more specialist or extensive support than is available in the scheme, there is no reason in principle why additional care cannot be provided through a care package (or direct payment or personal budget) as extra care is based on self-contained accommodation. A few extra care schemes have been designed from the outset with the intention of accommodating a set number of disabled people in a larger development.

An example - Beaumont Place

Beaumont Place offers extra care for people with a learning disability. Care is provided by Tameside MBC Adult Services within each of the 25 apartments. Extensive communal facilities have been provided to give extra care. The scheme has two large communal lounges, a dining room, a commercial kitchen, a quiet room, two assisted bathrooms, a laundry and various staff facilities. All locks are electronic, and flooring and signage is colour coordinated to help any resident or visitor fully use the building. New Charter (the developer) provides the main meal of the day for residents.

(Example provided by New Charter Housing Trust.)

In recent years there have been some experiments1 in developing small extra care schemes specifically for disabled people. In these cases access will be via Adult Social Care.

Applications can be made to the landlord, most commonly an RSL or the local authority. Like other public sector housing for rent it is likely that lettings are made through the local choice based lettings system (see separate leaflet). However in the case of extra care housing it is probable that a panel which includes Adult Social Care will manage the process of allocating properties.

This is because the local authority is likely to be funding care for a number of occupiers. In this case access via a referral from Adult Social Care can be a route in. There is a minimum age limit for sheltered housing and extra care which is 55 years but schemes may set a higher minimum age of 60 or 65 years. Occasionally the criteria permit people who are disabled but younger than the minimum age limit to be housed.

Some sheltered and extra care schemes developed by housing associations have a mixture of property for rent and for sale (usually shared ownership). In the case of these mixed tenure schemes it may be possible to buy rather than rent using Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) or other home ownership ideas (see separate leaflet).

Pros and cons


  • For older disabled people means living with people of a similar age
  • Property designed to be accessible and suitable for people with some physical frailty
  • Help available close by and emergency call system
  • Possible to have additional care tailored to needs
  • Own property with security of tenure may even be possible to buy in some recent developments
  • Safe, secure community
  • Range of facilities and activities on site.


  • Neighbours may not all be welcoming
  • Not all local authorities or RSLs are used to the idea of housing people with a learning disability alongside their traditional older tenants or leaseholders As yet, very few smaller extra care schemes purpose built and designed for people with a learning disability.

How the money works

Funding is like living in any other self-contained housing with some care and support. Rent should be met through Housing Benefit for those eligible with care funded by a combination of Adult Social Care and Supporting People Grant and conceivably Independent Living Fund for younger people. Day to day living expenses will be met through normal welfare benefits.

The financial arrangements between the landlord, care provider and statutory agencies vary but are usually designed to ensure everyone gets a minimum amount of support and that communal facilities can operate and then some mechanism for allowing care to be varied over time as needs change or for those who have higher care needs. Arrangements for paying for meals and the extent of the meals vary
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Learning Disability England
Birmingham Research Park
97 Vincent Drive
Birmingham, B15 2SQ, England
Tel. 0300 2010455
Learning Disability England
Registered company: 4233275
Registered Charity No. 1092587