Fresh focus on helping disabled tenants in greatest need to access adaptations

News release from 9 January 2017, 9:57am

CAMBRIDGE City Council is set to change its approach to adapting council homes for people with disabilities, in order to focus on providing the best solutions for people in greatest need.

A report proposes that councillors approve a new policy on adaptations for disabled tenants.

Adaptations typically involve modifications to properties such as providing level access showers, over-bath showers, ramps, stair lifts and other specialist changes.

These can help people to live longer in their own homes, to manage long term conditions and support the delivery of health and care services at home. They can also prevent incidents such as falls at home and reduce pressure on the NHS.

The proposed policy reaffirms the council’s commitment to providing suitable housing to meet the needs of disabled people. The council does this through helping people to move as well as through adaptations. Over the next five years the council will be building 500 new homes, many of which will be suitable for disabled people and their families.

The policy aims to bring adaptations services available to council tenants into line with those open to private sector and other social housing tenants.

Last year, around twice as much money was spent on adapting council homes compared with social and private sector homes.

The ageing population in the UK is reflected in the make-up of the council’s tenants, with more than a third of tenants aged over 65, meaning that demand for adaptations is expected to increase.

Additionally, national policy such as the mandatory annual reduction in rent is putting greater pressure on the housing budget. The council has responded to this with a transformation programme that sets out how it will target resources on those people in most need, improve the efficiency of services and make provision for savings. Making sure the council uses its adaptations budget appropriately is part of this transformation.

If approved, the new policy on adaptations for disabled tenants would, as in the past, support older and vulnerable people to move when needed and would offer new financial support to help those who decide to move to a property that is better matched to their particular needs.

The new policy also proposes a means test for council tenants applying for an adaptation, in line with the approach taken for other social housing tenants. This is expected to apply to just 24% of tenants, as the majority (76%) of tenants are already in receipt of benefits that exempt them from any means test.

Where appropriate, tenants would be asked to make a contribution to any adaptation. A weekly recharge is also proposed for those households with an adaptation that requires some form of ongoing maintenance service costs.

Cllr Kevin Price, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “Looking after those people who are in greatest need is our top priority and that is why we need an approach that helps us to prioritise our resources.

“We fully understand the importance of adapting people’s homes and we remain committed to continuing to do so, whilst helping people look at their long term needs and move to housing that is more suitable for them if appropriate.

“Asking for a contribution from those who can afford it is a reasonable proposal and it would mean that we can spend the money we do have on those people who really cannot afford to help themselves.

“We are also looking forward to providing more new accessible homes for people with disabilities, to meet their needs in the future.”

Councillors will discuss the recommendations in the report at Housing Scrutiny Committee on 18 January.