Risk-averse councils hindering home improvements

Councils need staff who are brave enough to challenge the status quo and take risks when it comes to adapting or improving homes for older people, according to a Centre for Ageing Better report.

Some local authorities in England are using their budgets to adapt or improve homes for older people but they are few and far between, it found.

In partnership with charity Care & Repair England, the older people’s charity contacted 226 housing authorities in England but received just 24 responses evidencing local authority initiatives to make home improvements.

Councils in Oxford, Manchester and Cornwall were praised for raising the profile of home adaptions and later-life housing covered by disabled facilities grants (DFG).

The government grant supports councils in paying for changes in the homes of disabled people with low incomes, with an estimated 60% of the money given for adaptions in the homes of people aged over 65, the report said.

Good practice among local authorities included having housing adaptions part of strategic planning, helping older people navigate home improvement services and speeding up their delivery.

However, Adapting for Ageing said referral delays, assessments not being completed, poor workmanship and poor co-ordination between local social services and housing authorities, were among the most commonly reported barriers to making housing improvements.

It said: ‘Local authorities are risk averse, but to change systems you need staff who are brave enough to challenge the status quo – you need to employ (and support) risk takers, people who are driven to make a change to the lives of service users.’

The potential for home improvements in older people’s housing should also feature more heavily in the long-term plan for the NHS, the joint health service and local government Better Care Fund programme, and the social care green paper, which is due to be published in the autumn, the report concluded.

Dr Rachael Docking (pictured), Centre for Ageing Better senior evidence manager, said the government grant ‘has been called the best kept secret in social care funding’ and by sharing good practice identified in the report means ‘unnecessary NHS and social care costs can be avoided.’

Councillor 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, [they] are using a range of forward thinking initiatives to adapt and improve homes. ‘However, with people living longer, increases in costs and decreases in funding, adult social care is at breaking point