EquityCare chief executive Barbara Davies set up her firm last year in the face of adversity but says there was too big a gap in the market for her not do what she could to help people fund their care.
The IFA specialises in equity release and long-term care funding advice and was created after Davies was made redundant from longterm care advisers NHFA.
“I had the chance to offer holistic advice on long-term care funding and it was too good a chance to waste,” she says. Davies set out to offer people a one-stop shop for advice on long-term healthcare, equity release and investment together with access to legal advice and a support helpline manned by specialists in this area of the law.
She had offered technical support to the advisers in her role at NHFA, so she knew the industry and knew the problems people faced in funding care. Davies gained her chartered financial planning status and launched the firm.
EquityCare aims to help people unlock some of their home’s equity so as to afford to either move into a care home or pay for domiciliary care.
“The solution is always peopleled,” she says. “People need all sorts of different things depending on their age, disability or care need. It’s not just about going into a home, there are a myriad things out there to make your home care more comfortable.”
At the start of this year, Davies teamed up with Better Retirement, an equity release adviser set up around the same time as equityCare by Tim
Eadon, former Personal Finance Society chief executive, and Keith Thompson. They had also created a subsidiary, Paying for Care at Home, specialising in equity release advice for funding domiciliary care. Both parties saw the benefit of bringing the businesses together, so this month Paying for Care at Home merged into equityCare, leaving Better Retirement to concentrate on annuity business.
EquityCare business development director and Better Retirement chief executive Tim Eadon says as his firm began investigating equity release to fund domiciliary care he realised the big gap was in Davies’ side of the business in care home funding.
He says: “We were able to give a lot more on the domiciliary side and equityCare was able to give more on the legal and care home side – the synergy was very good. This is the only sector with a distinct lack of brand and no single place to go for help. There is a huge opportunity for this new business to grasp this.”
Davies says equityCare brings together equity release advisers, care fee specialists, nurses and family solicitors. “It’s a totally tailored, specialist service all under one roof.”
The firm is now pushing forward to get the message out about the benefits of using equity release to help fund long-term healthcare.
Eadon says: “There are billions of pounds of equity sitting in the homes of people over 65. Pensions are getting smaller, more people are living longer and this country will not be able to fund all of them with its growing debts. Equity release is going to be used much more to fund care.”
The firm is working with local authorities, third-way agencies, care homes and charities but Eadon says there is still an “over-riding cynicism”from the financial services sector with regard to care.
He says: “We have not engaged historically as well as we should have done because the care sector is in desperate need of additional funding and we have products that can help them.”
Eadon says the firm is concentrating on web searches to engage the consumer directly but is using corporate relationships with charities and homecare providers to distribute its proposition on a bigger scale. But he says it is still “desperately hard” to get IFAs to talk about equity release and care planning.
“We have linked up with mortgage firms, networks and annuity providers but very little has come from it because they do not look for opportunities outside their immediate products. It is very much what IFAs should be talking about because we need to end up in a place where everyone is referring everyone else to get the best service.”
The firm thinks the focus of equity release will change from pensioners continuing to fund a certain lifestyle to funding longer healthcare solutions.
Eadon says: “It is screamingly obvious that those who can will have to pay for longterm care. It is just that the political parties have not got the bottle to admit that.” As a result, equityCare hopes equity release will become more central in the long-term healthcare debate raging in politics.
Davies says she is hopeful that the Government’s proposals for a National Care Service will go forward but worries that some people will miss out. “The issue is being kicked around and the taxpayer and elderly are missing out.”
Eadon says: “The long-term healthcare market has huge potential but it hinges on working closer with the local authorities and the right voluntary groups. But financial services needs to come forward and clean up its act in this area.”