Independent living for all

Government support for the elderly wishing to continue living independently at home has grown in the last few years. The Disabled Facilities Grant, which allows disabled people to make adaptations to their homes, was launched in 2012 and in December last year, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis announced an additional £1 million investment in the housing advice service FirstStop to continue to help older people live independently.
    
FirstStop works with partners such as Age UK, local councils and home improvement agencies in 15 areas across England, to provide tailored advice and practical support for older people who may be struggling to cope in their own homes but remain determined to keep living independently.
    
Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis said: “As people get older it is vital that they still have choices which allow them to enjoy healthy, independent and active lives. Ensuring the right information is available to enable older people and their families make those choices is crucial.
  
“As we grow older we may not just need to change how we live, we might also need to change the homes we live in. For some older people, this can be an overwhelming prospect, so the free information and advice and practical support provided by FirstStop is invaluable.”
    
The £1 million funding for 2015 to 2016 will mean FirstStop can continue delivering its national phone, email and online service to around 250,000 people, helping more older people make informed decisions about how and where they live as they age. It will also enable FirstStop to deliver a minimum of 15 local partner services for a further year, extending their current reach and building on the successes of the last 12 months.

Case Study
Mr and Mrs Jackson were referred to Age UK Norfolk’s Housing and Care Options Services following a phone call to the Age UK Norfolk Advice Line.

The Housing and Care Options Adviser supported the couple through the application process for sheltered housing, ensured they were claiming all appropriate benefits and entitlements, assisted the moving in process with the Housing Association and visited to check the couple had everything they needed in place.
    
Yvonne Costin, Age UK Norfolk Housing and Care Options Adviser, said: “The Housing and Care Options Service is an essential service. In the past 15 months I have helped hundreds of older people with housing issues, many of which have been very complex. Unsuitable housing is a real problem in Norfolk and what on the surface could appear to be straightforward matters are not simple to resolve if you are suffering from ill health or are living below the poverty line.”

Disabled facilities grant
To support the growing population of elderly people looking to remain in their own home, the government also has a Disabled Facilities Grant to fund adaptations to homes.
    
The grant allows disabled people to make changes to their homes to allow them to remain living independently. These include widening doors and installing ramps, and improving access to rooms and facilities, such as stairlifts or a downstairs bathroom. Options also include providing a heating system suitable to the occupiers’ needs, and adapting heating or lighting controls to make them easier to use.    

It could also allow them to improve access to and movement around the home to enable individuals to care for another person who lives in the property, such as a child.
    
Any eligible disabled person can apply for this grant through their local authority, whether they are a homeowner, private tenant or local authority tenant. The council will arrange for an occupational therapist through social services to visit the home to assess which adaptations are needed.
    
The grant can be used for adaptations that provide better freedom of movement into and around the home or to provide essential facilities. An occupational therapist will look at individual circumstances and recommend the type of adaptations needed.
    
Mark Prisk, the Housing Minister at the time, said: “For many people, the security of being able to stay in your own home in difficult times can have a real impact on their health and wellbeing.
    
“That’s why we’ve protected the Disabled Facilities Grant. The £180 million I’ve allocated today (28 March 2013) will help to support people across the country through disability and provide some of our most vulnerable with the help they need to live independently for as long as possible.”
    
Other initiatives that help older people remain living at home include Funding Foundations, the national body for home improvement agencies which provide minor repairs and services for around 250,000 older and disabled people each year.

Planning for future needs
The planning system reforms in the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework directs local authorities to plan for a mix of housing based on current and future demographic trends, and the needs of different groups in the area, including older people. It says that in order to deliver a wide choice of high quality homes, widen opportunities for home ownership and create sustainable, inclusive and mixed communities, ‘local planning authorities should plan for a mix of housing based on current and future demographic trends, market trends and the needs of different groups in the community (such as families with children, older people, people with disabilities, service families and people wishing to build their own homes).’
    
The National Planning Policy Framework is aimed at making the planning system less complex and more accessible. It vastly simplified the number of policy pages about planning.

The framework acts as guidance for local planning authorities and decision‑takers, both in drawing up plans and making decisions about planning applications.

Further information
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