Local authorities urged to raise awareness of home adaptations

Report urges councils to learn from best practice in housing adaptations outlined in report

Published on 8th October 2018

Local authorities should proactively raise awareness of home adaptations support and how people can access it, a report has urged.

The Centre for Ageing Better, ‘Adapting for ageing’ report, jointly published with Care & Repair England, identifies examples of good practice from across England on providing life-changing adaptations in the home to enable people to carry out every day activities.

It reveals innovative approaches and calls for other councils and service providers to learn from the good practice it has uncovered. This includes proactively raising awareness of available support and how to access it, delivering home adaptations quickly and without means-testing, linking adaptation services with vital home improvements and working with handyperson services.

Dr Rachael Docking, Senior Evidence Manager, Centre for Ageing Better said: "Through our call for practice, we’ve uncovered fantastic examples of innovative, forward-thinking approaches to helping people to keep on living in their homes for longer. The Disabled Facilities Grant has been called the best kept secret in social care funding, and this report highlights those councils that are making the most of what powers and revenue they have. We’re sharing the good practice we’ve found so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of a good later life – and unnecessary NHS and social care costs can be avoided."

There is rising demand for aids, adaptations and accessible housing across England as people live for longer and increasing numbers of older people live with multiple long-term health conditions or experience reductions in mobility.

According to recent analysis by the Londond School of Economics, the number of older people in need of help with everyday living will nearly double in the next 25 years.

The report highlights that while more than 90% of people over the age of 65 live in ordinary, mainstream housing, rather than specialist retirement accommodation, only 7% of UK homes meet basic national accessibility requirements.

Individual examples of innovative approaches to providing practical housing help is outlined in the report but authors warn that quality of provision is ‘highly variable’ across the country.

The report highlights the benefits of a proactive, prevention-focused approach to providing adaptations to older people's homes, while improving the information and advice offered on the options available. The report calls for a more consistent approach to measuring the outcomes of home adaptations and improvements as part of an integrated approach to housing, health and care.

It urges government to continue funding the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) to ensure councils have sufficient revenue funding to provide the services that deliver the adaptations effectively, particularly given the wide-ranging impacts of home adaptations, particularly for reducing pressure on the NHS.

Previous research has shown that investment in adaptations is highly cost-effective, helping to improve wellbeing, keep people out of hospital, prevent or delay moves into residential care, and reduce the need for carers. This is particularly true when they are installed early on and in combination with repairs and improvements.

Sue Adams OBE, Chief Executive, Care & Repair England said: "This research has revealed inspirational examples of excellent adaptations provision across the country. Innovation is being led by outstanding individuals and supported by visionary local authorities and others. The resulting home adaptations are life transforming for individual older people as well as benefiting the NHS and social services. Local authorities are under great financial pressure and so the really big challenges are to keep these great pioneers going as well as increasing adoption of best practice everywhere."

Responding to the report, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing board, said: “Councils are committed to keeping people at home and independent for as long as possible.

“As the report highlights, councils and partners are using a range of forward thinking initiatives to adapt and improve homes, to ensure they are accessible and help people remain in their own homes rather than go into care.

“However, with people living longer, increases in costs and decreases in funding, adult social care is at breaking point.

“Over recent years, councils have protected adult social care relative to other services. But the scale of the overall funding picture for local government as a whole means adult social care services still face a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025, just to maintain existing standards of care. The likely consequences of this are more and more people being unable to get quality and reliable care and support, which enables them to live more fulfilling lives.

“Action is needed, which is why, following government’s decision to delay its green paper on adult social care, the Local Government Association has published its own green paper consultation to drive forward the public debate on what sort of care and support we need to improve people’s wellbeing and independence, the need to focus on prevention work, and, crucially, how we fund these vital services," he added.

Adapting for ageing: Good practice and innovation in home adaptations

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