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Care & Repair England housing adaptations guide imageCare & Repair England has launched a new guide which offers practical information and advice about housing adaptations and how services can be reviewed and improved to facilitate independent living.

Entitled ‘Help with home adaptations: Improving local services’, the checklist is intended for local older people’s forums and groups who want to influence local policy, plans and actions.

Written by Care & Repair England, the checklist draws on the experience of members of the Older People’s Housing Champions network and sets out local authorities’ responsibilities for providing help with home adaptations; what a ‘good’ adaptation service is; and opportunities to improve local home adaptations provision.

Housing adaptations are an essential part of enabling elderly and disabled people to remain independent in their own homes. Adaptations can provide vital equipment, such as a stairlift, to ensure people have access in and around their homes.

The guide states that whilst many people pay for housing adaptations themselves, there are a number of people who would benefit from independent advice, practical assistance with managing the building works or help covering the costs of adaptations.

However, Care & Repair England says that whilst local authorities are legally required to assist people with housing adaptations, the quality of provision of housing adaptations varies significantly throughout England.

In light of this, the housing adaptations guide lays out:

  • The help with home adaptations that should be provided everywhere
  • Examples of good home adaptation services
  • Ideas for working with local authorities to improve local provision – including a list of questions to ask about current services and a good practice checklist

Local authorities’ duties

Before discussing what a good housing adaptation service looks like, the guide first establishes the different roles and responsibilities of local authorities and how they join up to work together to deliver housing adaptations.

The guide outlines that all local authorities (County Councils, Unitary Authority and District/Borough Councils) have legal duties to help disabled people with home adaptations.

Housing authorities are required to offer mandatory, means-tested grants to help to meet the costs of essential home adaptations (Disabled Facilities Grants).

Social services authorities are required to provide assistance with community equipment and minor adaptations (such as grab rails) as well as offering related information and advice. Social services authorities also have discretionary powers with regard to helping with the costs of home adaptations (e.g. providing loans or grants) and their occupational therapists are usually involved in assessing need for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG).

County Councils are responsible for social services, District/Borough Councils (which operate within a County) are responsible for housing functions, and Unitary Authorities are responsible for both social services and housing.

As both the housing authority and the social services authority are involved in home adaptations provision, the guide says that good links between these two councils is an important step in providing a good housing adaptations service.

The Disabled Facilities Grant

The DFG is a mandatory, means-tested grant that helps to pay for essential home adaptations which enable disabled people to remain independent in their homes.

Grant level is dependent upon savings and income but not the value of the home and councils can put a grant repayment charge on the property. The mandatory DFG limit is £30,000 but councils can provide top up adaptation grants and/or loans.

Good home adaptation services

The guide says that in order to provide a good housing adaptation service, the following factors need to be incorporated:

  • People should have access to reliable, impartial information and advice about suitable home adaptations
  • It should be easy for people to find out about the adaptations help available and adaptation costs
  • The adaptations process should be transparent and there should be clear communication with the individual
  • People should be able to get the adaptations help they need easily and professionals should listen to their wants and needs
  • The home adaptation should be carried out quickly and efficiently to avoid delays
  • The adaptation should be delivered by a reputable contractor at a reasonable price

The checklist

The guide builds on various examples of good housing adaptation services to provide a helpful checklist for local older people’s groups and other stakeholders so they can support and encourage local authorities to review and improve home adaptations provision.

Examples within the checklist include:

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You can read the full guide by Care & Repair England here

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