New report calls for major national reform to home adaptations services
Age Scotland is calling on local authorities to provide a ‘one-stop shop’ to help older people adapt their homes for later life after new research found that the available services across the country are fragmented, inflexible and difficult to navigate.
A new report “Making Adaptations Work for Older People in Scotland” from Age Scotland and the University of Stirling, funded by the Scottish Government, was launched in Edinburgh yesterday with housing minister Paul McLennan MSP. It found that local authority adaptations services varied widely in quality across the country and in many cases getting help was confusing and unsatisfactory.
The research team from the University of Stirling was headed up by Dr Vikki McCall.
The experiences of hundreds of older people across Scotland were gathered through a national survey and focus groups, and highlighted the significant challenges faced in accessing housing adaptation services, such as the lack of good quality, publicly available information, gaps in local support, funding constraints for applicants, limited design options and a lack of available tradespeople to carry out essential repairs and changes to the home.
A key recommendation is for each local authority to establish a single adaptation agency to direct, manage and assist older homeowners in navigating the complex, and at times stressful, process of making their home safe to live in. Age Scotland believes this is especially important for older households reacting to a recent health diagnosis or crisis.
Councils have a legal responsibility to provide adaptations support to older people through the Scheme of Assistance, but the research found that only seven of Scotland’s 32 local authorities had easily accessible information available about this support, with nine having no information whatsoever.
The report highlights that information and signposting from local authorities was unsatisfactory, with many using vague terms such as ‘Particular Needs’ for web pages promoting their adaptations services. It was found that that there is no common local authority department across the country responsible for delivering these crucial services, creating an overly complicated system that can seem impossible to navigate.
Age Scotland believes that these disjointed services have led to most older people who need to adapt their homes, many of whom are already on low incomes, self-financing these essential changes and missing out on grants and other available financial support.
Many home adaptations are minor in nature, such as the installation of grab-rails and ramps, but they can have a tremendous impact on quality of life and the ability to live independently at home. The process is incredibly challenging for older people requiring more significant changes to their homes such as wet-room conversions or wheelchair access.
‘Making Adaptations Work for Older People in Scotland’ has 15 recommendations for reform including, investing in a one-stop shop for all adaptations support, develop a home upgrade campaign for older and disabled people, consistent inclusive language in adaptations information and advice, ensure that all care and repair services are funded appropriately.
Michelle Supple, Age Scotland’s deputy chief executive, said: “This new research outlines how important home adaptation services are to improving someone’s quality of life but demonstrates the significant gap between what should happen and reality. We’re grateful to the Scottish Government for funding this work and the partnership with the University of Stirling to deliver it.
“The path to getting adaptations that will allow an older person to live well and safely at home isn’t always clear and varies widely between local authorities. Many older people cannot afford to adapt their home but are completely oblivious to the financial support which should exist to help them do so.
“Major reforms and national consistency are needed to ensure people receive the timely and cost-effective get the support they are entitled to, quickly and that it is cost-effective. This includes ensuring that all Care and Repair services are funded appropriately.
“We would like to see a better system in place with every council offering a ‘one-stop shop’ for accessing support and delivering all stages of the adaptations process, and a national ‘home upgrade’ campaign to deliver investment in upgrading existing housing stock to improve design, accessibility, energy efficiency and assistive technology. This would help older people think proactively about their future housing needs and make staying in their own home for as long as they want a more viable and reassuring option.”
Housing minister Paul McLennan said: “We know that adaptations can make a huge difference in helping people to live safely and independently in the comfort of their own homes. Every local authority is required to assess housing need and demand, and to set out in their Local Housing Strategies how they will deliver the homes that are required for their communities.
“As this Age Scotland report highlights, there is more to be done to improve how adaptations are accessed which is why we are undertaking a review of how best to improve and simplify the system.”
The 15 recommendations are:
- Invest in local and national hubs for a ‘one-stop shop’ for adaptations support
- Redefine and expand adaptations criteria to include wider consideration of support needs within the home
- Invest in a ‘Home Upgrade’ campaign for older and/or disabled people as an investment in preventative support focusing on upgrading current housing stock across Scotland that is not fit for purpose, which has the most potential for planning for ageing
- Create consistent language, avoiding jargon, in information and advice around adaptations
- Review the suitability of the private rented sector for healthy ageing
- Expand support for adaptations to include informal stages
- Ensure consistent funding mechanisms between areas and tenures
- Ensure that all Care & Repair services are funded appropriately
- Increase support for effective partnership working between housing, health, and social care
- Link in wider housing condition surveys and carbon neutral ambitions to adaptation processes
- Improve evaluation processes and existing outcome measures
- Establish a good practice review on contractor procurement
- Take a proactive Inclusive Living Approach to planning for housing and adaptations
- Enable advice services and the public in understanding what good, inclusive design looks like
- Create a consistent, household approach to assessment across all tenures and throughout Scotland