The delivery of home adaptations designed to help disabled and older people varies from area to area and often lacks any integrated decision making, according to an independent Government review.
A review of Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care has proposed that local housing and health partnership boards be set up to maximise the impact of grants for home adaptations.
The annual DFG budget — worth £0.5bn this year – enables thousands of vulnerable people to adapt their homes and live independently.
However, the review found that the delivery of adaptations varies across the country. It also discovered that there is often a lack of integrated decision making and tracking of impact on those receiving grants.
This could be fixed using local housing and health partnership boards, according to the review, which would bring together representatives from health, housing and social care to develop local strategies for adaptations and accessible housing.
Written by the University of the West of England, Foundations, the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and Ferret Information Systems, the review also recommends the establishment of a new Home Independence Transformation Fund, equivalent to 1% of the DFG budget, to help areas develop more integrated services.
‘This Review looks at the current way the Disabled Facilities Grant is delivered and how it could be improved to reduce pressures on health and social care,’ said Sheila Mackintosh, research fellow at the University of West of England.
‘It shows how changes to the home such as providing a shower instead of a bath, installing a stairlift, ramp or rails, or in some cases a downstairs extension, can transform the lives of disabled and older people and enable them to remain independent.
‘But governance needs to be improved, resources distributed fairly and transparently, and services updated to provide faster and more effective solutions in keeping with today’s lifestyles.’
Cllr David Williams, County Councils Network (CCN) spokesman for health and social care, and leader of Hertfordshire County Council, welcomed the review, saying that the DFG scheme was ‘not working as well as intended in two-tier areas’.
‘Patients in two-tier county areas are 10% more likely to be delayed in leaving hospital because they are awaiting adaptations compared to those in county unitary areas, so it is clear that more needed to be done to promote closer collaboration between housing and social care councils, both for the benefit of the individual and for the wider health service,’ he said.
Welcoming the housing and health partnership boards proposal, Cllr Williams said: ‘This new approach could have the potential to provide stronger strategic oversight to ensuring that funding matches need, alongside greater collaboration between the two-tiers of councils.’
However, he also added that counties should have ‘strong strategic oversight through these new boards’ in order to be effective.