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Monday, July 26, 1999 Published at 01:10 GMT 02:10 UK


Elderly and disabled face housing 'lottery'

Adaptations mean elderly or disabled people need not rely on carers

The provision of housing adaptations that allow elderly and disabled people to retain their independence are a postcode lottery, say charities.

A report by Age Concern England and disability charity Radar found that some local authorities carried out the essential changes promptly in consultation with users, while others left people stranded in their homes.

The adaptations can include wheelchair ramps, emergency alarm buttons, lowered light switches and stair lifts.

The report says many elderly and disabled people are getting a poor service due to bad working relationships between housing and social services departments, long waiting times and lack of prioritisation and consultation with users.

The report, Disabled Facilities Grants - Is the system working?, looked at 89 local authorities in England and found wide variation in services.

Little consultation

Radar and Age Concern are now calling for the government to set clear national performance standards so people have the same provisions wherever they live.

They say these should cover liaison between housing and social services, target times for processing grant applications and occupational therapists' assessments, provision of information and standards for monitoring adapted properties.

The charities say the standards should also be part of best value local government plans and the National Service Framework for Older People.

The report found that:

  • More than 75% of local authorities did not have joint housing and social services teams dealing with adaptations, contrary to government guidance
  • More than 35% had no target times for processing applications, even though they are required to do so within six months
  • People deemed "non-urgent" were waiting up to two years for assessment by occupational therapists
  • Nearly half of all local authorities did not consult users about adaptations
  • More than 65% had little or no priority system and of those that did, few gave out any information on how they did so

Marie Pye, Radar's housing officer, said the government needed to provide clear guidance so local authorities understood their obligations concerning adaptations.

[ image: Wide variations in service across the country]
Wide variations in service across the country
"National performance standards are urgently required to ensure that disabled and older people receive an efficient and responsive service."

Sally Greengross, of Age Concern, added that adaptations and disabled grants could make the difference "between dependence or having to rely on carers for support".

"The government frequently asserts its commitment to supporting older and disabled people to live independently; ensuring that the disabled facilities grants system works efficiently is an essential step towards turning this policy into practice."

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