DESPITE some good work being done by councils and their partners to provide home adaptations for older people, quality of provision nationally remains something of a ‘postcode lottery’, a new report claims.
Adapting for Ageing, published jointly by the Centre for Ageing Better and Care & Repair England, highlights some of the examples of good practice found from across England to help older people live in their homes longer.
Life-changing adaptations made in the home enable people, particularly those who are managing health conditions or have experienced a loss of mobility, to carry out every day activities, such as cooking, bathing or using the toilet.
Examples of good practice include: 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.
However, while the report praises individual examples of innovative approaches to providing practical housing help, the authors warn that quality of provision is “highly variable” across the country.
“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,” said Dr Rachael Docking, the Centre for Ageing Better’s senior evidence manager.
“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.
Recent analysis by LSE shows the number of older people in need of help with everyday living will nearly double in the next 25 years.
However, more than 90% of people over the age of 65 live in ordinary, mainstream housing (rather than specialist retirement accommodation), and only 7% of UK homes meet basic national accessibility requirements.
The new 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.
It builds on previous research that is said to show 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.
“This research has revealed inspirational examples of excellent adaptations provision across the country,” said Sue Adams OBE, chief executive of Care & Repair England. “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.”
The Adapting for Ageing report was welcomed by the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, but it added a warning caveat of its own — the dark cloud of funding cuts threatening service provision in future.
“Councils are committed to keeping people at home and independent for as long as possible,” said Councillor Ian Hudspeth, chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board. “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.”