Safety and independence for older people: Elder CEO Peter Dowds (Image: NC)
This comes amid increasing concerns about the residential care sector’s vulnerability to the spread of coronavirus. One of the UK’s fastest growing companies, Elder uses bespoke technology to security vet and match the support it provides and run the logistics. It recently raised £8.2million second round funding from Acton Capital and MMC Ventures to scale the operation. Clients are self-funders, often in their mid-80s, who have homes with space to accommodate another person both for longer term and respite support.
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We are the alternative, the viable choice beyond the care home so people can stay safe but independent in their own home
“We are the alternative, the viable choice beyond the care home so people can stay safe but independent in their own home. This is 97 percent prefer anyway. This way they have help they can rely on and an individual with a personality that suits them,” explains Elder co-founder and chief executive Peter Dowds.
“They can also keep their GP and potentially enjoy better health, studies show the risk of a hip fracture for example is reduced by 46 percent.
“We meet everyone before we employ them, but can get a carer matched within 48 hours because of our scheduling and scaleable technology.
“We have a ratings and feedback system for clients, regular meetings with carers which offer further layers of security and price-wise we’re competitive – it costs around £1,300 a week in care and £895 with Elder.
“Interest was growing in our very different solution, but it has certainly soared with the impact of coronavirus.”
Support and companionship: Elder client Dulcie is seeing the benefits (Image: NC)
Technology makes it viable: Elder’s technology knits everything together (Image: NC)
Set up in 2016, the business has secured £16.5 million in venture capital so far, employs 100 staff in cities across the UK from Edinburgh to London and expects a £30 million turnover this year.
Its band of self-employed carers numbers 3,000 – average age 46, working in every region save the Outer Hebrides.
Seeing the problems close relatives faced and how the numbers of over-85s are set to double to three million by 2043 were the deciding factors for Dowds, who previously owned a technology-enabled cleaning services firm.
“It was time to develop alternatives to a system which has an ingrained bias towards the status quo and the traditional, institutional setting,” he says.
“We are now delivering the equivalent of an average-sized care home every 12 days and are very well aware of the pressures the social care system faces.
“In 2017 care home insolvencies increased by 83 percent. Financial unsustainability is going to continue in the sector because of the aggressive leaseback agreements and unfeasible returns many are based on.”
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Spirit of change: some of Elder’s team (Image: NC)
Elder’s chief challenge at first was providing specific reassurances around vetting (it has triple background checks) and explaining how the service works.
At that point it was also supplying alongside care on a temporary, hourly basis. “Then we realised this was too logistically complex and now offer a purely full-time segment,” says Dowds.
“This was an enormous decision, but the right one in hindsight. There was no manual because we are the first and now proving there is a market.”
Going forward Elder’s task is to be more visible as people begin to think about when they will go into care.
“Most enter through the health system and we need to build on the relationships we already have with NHS Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups,” he adds. “Our solution can help people leave hospital and free up beds in wards.”
Looking ahead Elder sees the chance to license its technology, but its focus for now will remain on building a recognisable brand in the UK’s social sector, applying “impeccable attention to detail”, says Dowds.
“We are part of a profound cultural shift taking place about ageing.”