Thursday, December 06, 2007

Government ramps up funding for home adaptations

Thousands of older and disabled people will benefit from extra Government funding for home adaptations, such as ramps, stair lifts and easy-access showers. Communities Minister Baroness Andrews today announced the increases in the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) as part of a package of measures designed at helping people live independently in their own homes for longer.

The DFG will increase by £25 million for 2008/09, a significant increase of 20 per cent, taking central Government funding up to £146 million. Central government funding for DFG has already doubled since 1997 from £57 million to £121 million this year.

Around 35,000 older and disabled people already receive DFG support every year. Adaptations funded include improved access to homes, such as widened doors, and basic facilities within a home, like a track and hoist.

The Government also announced plans to strengthen Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs), the locally based not-for-profit organisations that help homeowners and tenants renting private housing repair and maintain their homes.

The new programmes Communities and Local Government announced to support HIAs are:
* A new three-year contract for a national co-ordinating body for HIAs. The body will support the delivery of the forthcoming national strategy for housing in an ageing society, provide ongoing support to HIAs and give a voice for the sector in Government.

* A Future HIA project, to be taken forward by Foundations Home Improvement Agency, to help ensure that HIAs are fit for the future and to see whether they can deliver wider services, such as housing options advice, gardening services, support for people discharged from hospital. Foundations will report to Government next year.

Communities Minister Baroness Andrews said:

"Most people are happy with their current homes and want to remain where they live for as long as possible, but the decisions people make on staying put or moving are increasingly motivated by their health and well-being.

"This package of funding and initiatives will help people make the right choices for them and not feel pressured into moving into sheltered housing or residential care.

"We want to ensure that older people have the best possible advice on their housing options and to help them live independently for as long as possible. Living longer should mean living well, not more years spent in accommodation unsuitable for those with a chronic illness or disability."

HIAs advise people on improvements and adaptations which they may need to their homes and assist them in applying for local authority grants or loans to carry out the required work.

They also help to identify reputable local contractors, helping vulnerable people to avoid 'cowboy' builders. They then oversee the work to ensure that their clients are completely satisfied.

In 2004/05, HIAs in England dealt with 103,000 enquiries where substantial advice was given, and in 38,700 cases, this led to work being carried out by the HIA.

Notes to Editors
1. The Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) is a mandatory entitlement administered by local housing authorities, to help fund the provision of adaptations to enable disabled people to live as comfortably and independently as possible in their homes.
2. Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) are small, locally based not-for-profit organisations, although some are part of larger housing and support service organisations or local authorities. HIAs receive most of their revenue funding from local government through Supporting People (SP) and general housing funds. Under SP, funding decisions are made by local authorities rather than by central government. This has encouraged HIAs to be more diverse, working to local rather than national agendas. The proportion of the population over 75 years old covered by HIAs has risen from 61% in 1999 to 92% in 2006.
3. Communities and Local Government sponsors a national co-ordinating body for HIAs (called Foundations) to support the work of HIAs, including promoting and raising the profile of HIAs, increasingly with local service commissioners and local area agreements; representing the movement in dealing with government and other stakeholders, and building HIA capacity.
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