Nicola Whiteman is the policy and involvement manager at the Papworth Trust
Unsuitable homes are costing us dearly. Too many disabled and older people suffer added stress, accidents or health problems because their homes are not suitable for their needs.
The right surroundings help people to live healthy and independent lives, where they can take part in the day to day activities that so many people take for granted. The government acknowledged the health and economic benefits of home aids and adaptations in its recent White Paper, ‘Caring for our future’.
But the barriers to getting home improvements mean still too many people are living in homes that risk their safety, increase their reliance on care, and could result in them going to hospital. And the subsequent cost to the health service far outweighs the cost of making adaptations.
At disability charity Papworth Trust, we know there is a better way. We surveyed more than 600 people and used the results, along with our experiences of running Home improvement Agencies, to identify problems in the system and to make strong recommendations for radical change.
In our new report, Home Solutions to our Care Crisis (pdf), our recommendations include:
• Giving GPs the power and training they need to prescribe minor home adaptations, such as grab rails or a ramp, to their disabled and older patients;
• Helping people who don’t qualify for state-funded Disabled Facilities Grants by creating a ring-fenced central pot of money for equity release;
• Ensuring that if someone spends their own money to adapt their home so that they can live independently for longer, this money is counted towards any proposed care cap;
• Investing more health sector money into home adaptations to save money spent on health care in the long run.
Home adaptations can change lives. But currently there is a postcode lottery of access to these vital services. So let’s address the issues and make sure we are doing everything possible to help disabled and older people live independent, safe lives.
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