Addressing our 100-year lives

This blog was written by Sara McKey, Chair of FILT

I was privileged in March to be invited to join a small group of organisations led by The Design CouncilSocial Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and Centre for Ageing Better to a workshop to look at how we can facilitate independent living for our future 100-year lives.

The group represented a variety of related agencies from health, care and housing, plus a full range of ages. There were a number of active carers in the room – some looking after partners as well as older children. What was apparent was the fact that no-one wanted to feel institutionalised by where or how they lived. They did not want their homes to be medicalised to enable them to live safely independently. There was a strong call for much more creative design that would appeal to all ages and not look clinical, grey and shout “vulnerable”.

Our Patron, Lord Best, speaks passionately about housing being the third leg of the stool with health and social care. Our health and wellbeing are massively affected by the quality of our housing and its adaptability to our changing needs. Whilst there is a need for more specialist housing, the vast majority of us (over 90% according to ONS 2011) will continue to live in mainstream housing. So how can we ensure it will be fit for purpose for a potential 100-year life, plus works for people across generations as intergenerational and communal living becomes more common?

I was struck by the lack of options for private funders to raise finance to support home improvements. How can we justify a cut-off point for bank loans at 70 when we’re quite happy to tax pensioners savings and charge them for often very poor quality care? That’s why our workshop was determined to look at not only good design, but also new financial products and better use of Government funds to support home adaptations and assistive technology. One of the four key recommendations in the states:

“Government should provide greater flexibility of finance by increasing age limits on lending, extend personal health care budgets to factor-in housing adaptions, and encourage the Disabled Facilities Grant to be used more innovatively to ensure speedy access to home adaptations.” Social Care Institute for Excellence

Clearly, better access to funding options will help more people stay in control of their lives and live successfully independently in their own homes. We welcome this proposal and look forward to seeing it built into the social care green paper. We need a truly integrated approach to housing, care and health systems to ensure we can all live positive and independent lives into older age.

Join our campaign to raise funds so that more people can live well in their own homes. www.beginsathome.org

Sara McKee

Chair, FILT


Gas safety key to health and wellbeing

Can you imagine huddling in a sleeping bag on the floor of your living room, next to a single fan heater just to keep warm? Confining yourself to one room because your central heating doesn’t work and your entire house is cold.

This is a real-life story of a man from Carlisle whose broken boiler left him malnourished and near-frozen. It’s also the reality of many people throughout the UK who are experiencing fuel poverty, often living with unsafe or broken heating systems that they can’t afford to replace or repair.

Yet there is funding available to make vital home improvements.

This year FILT received £325,000 from the Gas Safe Charity to enable people to stay safe, well and warm in their home. On behalf of their clients, Home Improvement Agencies can access Gas Safe Charity Hardship Fund grants to deliver gas safety checks and service appliances, plus repair and replace the likes of gas boilers, gas fires and gas cookers.

Since July 2017 more than 1,200 people have been supported. The money has helped older, disabled and vulnerable people to stay at home and prevented death, injury and illness caused by dangerous gas work and appliances. The grants are relatively small, on average under £200, but they make a big difference to people’s lives.

Just like the man in Carlisle who now is enjoying a safe and warm home thanks to his boiler being repaired by Homelife Carlisle, with funding from the Gas Safe Charity Hardship Fund.

Help us to spread the word about the funding available for people to enjoy a safe and warm life.  Information about the fund and how to apply is available here: http://filt.org.uk/gas-safe-charity/


A helping hand from BlueWatch

In the autumn of 2017, CFOA BlueWatch donated 1,000 Fire Angel cold detectors to Foundations and FILT. We then distributed the alarms to a number of community organisations across the north west of England:

  • 500 to Care Network – Blackburn – an independent HIA serving the local authority areas of Blackburn and Darwen;
  • 200 to Asby Parish – Cumbria – parish council / church group serving a population of approximately 200 dwellings in a remote, rural area of Cumbria;
  • 300 to Bolton Money Skills service – Bolton – a council-funded financial advice service, including energy efficiency advice.

This is what the organisations reported back to us:

Care Network

Cold detectors were delivered to Care Network in September/October 2017 and have been distributed by the HIA as and when client-support officers encountered clients who may benefit from cold detectors. Typically, older, vulnerable groups, people with respiratory conditions or homes with very young children. Although the distribution of the cold detectors was successful, the view was expressed by the HIA that the availability of CO detectors would have been a valuable addition, as a large number of properties encountered did not have these detectors installed.

Asby Parish

Working with Asby Parish and St Peter’s Church, 200 cold detectors were made available and advertisements went into the local parish magazine and messaging services, to warn of the dangers of excess cold, and advise that the detectors were free of charge. The availability of an optional home assessment using a Bluewatch/CFOA assessment form was also made available.

The parish’s stated aim was to ensure that every single dwelling in the parish would have a cold detector in place, and by the end of November 2017 100% of the detectors had been distributed.

Asby is a remote rural community, with no mains gas provision. During the severe weather encountered in the winter of 2017/18, the parish was effectively cut-off for three days due to severe snowfall and drifts. Feedback from the residents concerning the cold detectors was extremely positive, with a number of residents stating that it had helped them prepare for the onset of cold weather effectively:

“I could move the detector from room to room and it showed just how dangerously cold some rooms had become! Our study was at a dangerous level, and I needed to turn the heating up quite a bit just to get it to a safe level. My husband spends a lot of time in the study, and he’s not in good health. The room has old single-glazed windows and I need to get them updated for next year!”

“I was surprised at how clear the instructions were for the alarms, and they’ve got a ten-year battery life. It’ll probably out-last me!”

The distribution of detectors in Asby was significant, as they were all in place before the onset of some of the most severe weather in thirty years. Many residents of the parish are over 60 years, and being in a conservation area / national park, many properties are over 300 years old and single-glazed, as such not as thermally efficient as modern dwellings. Happily there were no reports of cold-related health issues from the residents of Asby, despite the arctic temperatures, and the cold alarms may have contributed to this in some way.


FILT welcomes new Board appointee

Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT) has appointed Jim Truscott, Partner of Beyond Corporate Law, to the Board of Trustees.

Jim has more than 20 years’ corporate law experience, he is one of the founders of Beyond Professional Services Group, a former equity partner/owner of Heatons LLP and equity partner at Fieldfisher LLP.

For over two decades, Jim has demonstrated a consistent record of providing commercially aware corporate and company law advice to SMEs, business owners and management teams, nationally and internationally. He has developed long-standing client relationships across variety of industry sectors, notably financial services, retail, and IT.

FILT Chair, Sara McKee, said: “Jim’s legal expertise, commercial acumen and ability to form long-standing client relationships makes him a valuable addition to the Board of Trustees. One of our key goals is to broaden our networks and funding partners in order to increase the number of people we are able to support, and Jim will play an integral role in this.

Jim Truscott added: “I’m a huge admirer of FILT’s work to help older and vulnerable people to stay safe, well and warm at home. Their ability to deliver huge health and wellbeing benefits from small home improvements is outstanding. Home Improvement Agencies are unsung heroes in this country and I’m looking forward to working with the Board and the FILT team to grow the charity.

FILT operates grants for local Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) to provide a range of support including repairs and improvements to the homes of older people and vulnerable people at risk of fuel poverty. Find your local HIA at www.findmyhia.org.uk 


Our home is our castle – reflections on a year as Chair

Sara McKee reflects on a year as FILT Chair ahead of her appearance at the HousingLin annual conference where she’ll debate housing choices for older people.

In 1644, English judge Sir Edward Coke was quoted as saying, “For a man’s house is his castle”. Since that time the expression is almost always “An Englishman’s home is his castle”.

We often hear how people, particularly older people, want to stay in the home they’ve lived in for many years. And why not? That’s where we’ve built up so many memories, raised families and feel most comfortable. It’s close to the community we belong to and where we are connected.

Unfortunately, many houses built over the past couple of centuries are no longer fit for our ageing population. The stairs are too steep, the plumbing is archaic and the roof leaks. The choice of places to move into instead are often unappealing and strip us of our independence.

That’s why we’ve launched our campaign “Begins at Home” to raise awareness of the needs of homeowners in our communities. We’re championing those householders who are not eligible for grants or other public funds, but don’t have the cash to make the necessary repairs and maintenance to keep their homes safe. We work with Home Improvement Agencies across the UK to provide funds to help to install new boilers, fix leaky roofs and provide other handyman services.

Our philosophy is not only built on the original phrase coined in 1382 by John Wyclif: “charity begins at home”, but also from the practical perspective of the UK’s lack of suitable housing for all ages. At a recent conference on innovation, which inevitably talked about NEW housing models, we highlighted the value to health for many people of improving their existing bricks and mortar. New build will not happen fast enough and doesn’t deliver the solution for many people. Let’s invest in our existing housing stock so people can continue to be part of the communities they’ve always lived in.

So after one year as the Chair of Foundations Independent Living Trust, I’m determined to drive our message out to as wide an audience as we can under our campaign banner.

Begins@Home is here to:

* Provide funds to help individuals stay in their own homes safe and warm

* Help health and social care commissioners feel confident that homes are fit for living well

* Ensure existing housing has a long-term future in our communities.

Please join in our campaign to help us raise awareness as well as funds by following us on Twitter and via our website www.beginsathome.org. With big thanks to all our partners including nPower, SSE, Gas Safe, Taylor Wimpey, MaximEyes and British Red Cross.

Sara McKee

Chair, Foundations Independent Living Trust


Pilot to help make homes dementia friendly

People living with dementia and their families can now access funding to help them live at home for longer.

The charity, Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT), will allocate a £10,000 donation by residential developer Taylor Wimpey to four Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) – Age UK Isle of White, Lincolnshire Home Improvement Agency, Preston Care & Repair and WE Care & Repair. Each HIA will receive a £2,500 grant and the money can be used for improvements such as bathroom and shower adaptations.

Sara McKee, Chair of FILT said: “We know that people with dementia want to stay living at home but sometimes their house isn’t safe or dementia friendly. As a result, they can enter residential care prematurely which has a detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing.

“The funding from Taylor Wimpey will help HIAs provide an environment that is dementia friendly and contributes to a good quality of life, the ultimate goal of all our work.

“This is the first time we’ve funded home improvements specifically targeted at supporting people with dementia and we’ll use it as a pilot to gauge the impact of the work undertaken.”

More than 670,000 people in England live with dementia and the numbers are set to double over the next 30 years, according to the Department of Health. For those living at home, house improvements play a vital role in helping to reduce an individual’s anxiety as well as the risk of injury like falls or burns.

Last year FILT has launched the ‘Begins at Home’ campaign to highlight the huge impact that small house improvements can have on the lives of older and vulnerable people.


Tackling fuel poverty one home repair at a time

This Friday (23 February) is Fuel Poverty Awareness Day. A vital initiative to highlight the millions of people in the UK who can’t afford to heat their home, living each day chilled to the bone.

It’s amazing to think there are still people who face the possibility of freezing in their own home. You would assume that fuel poverty was confined to Victorian times, but sadly that is not the case.

Too many Britons are living in houses that are not-fit-for-purpose and they don’t have the means to pay for repairs or make their homes more energy efficient.  This leaves them at risk of illness and people can die.

We play our part in tackling fuel poverty by funding life-changing repairs to improve the heating and fuel efficiency of people’s homes.

Each year we distribute grants to Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) so they can make repairs to the houses of vulnerable and older people, enabling them to stay safe, well and warm at home.

This year alone we will fund more than £500,000 worth of home repairs and improvements thanks to our partnership with npower and Gas Safety Charity.

The npower Health Through Warmth (HTW) Crisis Fund helps people in England who have long-term illnesses and are finding it hard to fund heating and insulation measures in their homes.  Works covered include insulation, draught-proofing, central heating, and heating repairs.

While the Gas Safe Charity Hardship Fund will pay for the likes of gas fire repairs, boiler servicing, and the installation of gas meters.

In both instances, these types of work provide a huge benefit to the individual but also to the NHS and social care. These works prevent injuries and illness –  like falls, carbon monoxide poisoning and burns – potentially avoiding hospital admission and early entrance to residential care.

What’s more, the people we help tell us they feel healthier, less stressed and better able to manage long term conditions themselves.

Just ask Stoke-on-Trent couple, Mr and Mrs P, who last year were left with no heating or hot water after their boiler broke down. Mr P has prolapsed discs, arthritis, diabetes, and suffers from severe mobility issues.    Their HIA caseworker successfully accessed £1,468.95 to cover the boiler replacement, preventing Mr P’s condition from quickly deteriorating.

This is just one example of the impact that small household repairs can have on someone’s life. Please spread the word about the prevalence of fuel poverty in this country, but also reassure people that help is at hand.

To find your local HIA visit www.findmyhia.org.uk and use the searchable directory, or phone Foundations on 0300 124 0315.


Making warm homes a priority

FILT is thrilled to confirm that our partnership with npower delivering the npower Health Through Warmth Crisis Fund has been renewed for another year. During 2018 £220,000 in funding will be available for people living with long-term illnesses who are finding it hard to pay for heating and insulation measures in their homes.

HIA caseworkers across England can access grants of up to £750 to help contribute towards heating measures for home-owners on low income who suffer from cold-related health issues.

For guidance on accessing the grants and eligibility criteria, head over to the npower page on our website.


Renewed partnership with Gas Safe Charity continues to offer crucial support to HIA customers

Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT) is pleased to announce that it has renewed its partnership with Gas Safe Charity, now in its fifth year. Following an initial allocation of £275,000, an additional £50,000 has been made available from Gas Safe Charity to be used towards minor gas safety works in the homes of older and vulnerable people.

The monies have been partly distributed to Bryson Energy, Northern Ireland National Energy Agency, as well as to eight London services that keep older people warm and well in their home. Remaining funds have been placed in the Gas Safe Charity central pot that is still available for applications from HIAs in England, especially those based in London boroughs.

The funds (averaging at £200, but can be up to £500) will cover essential works that aim to prevent injuries or illness caused by dangerous gas work and appliances. This type of intervention provides a wide social benefit at a time when effective options for this kind of emergency are scarce. The immediate problems are addressed quickly and at low cost. These preventative services reduce the negative impact on a person’s health, potentially avoiding otherwise costly interventions such as hospital admissions or the need for other emergency services.

To find out more about the Gas Safe Charity programme and eligibility criteria, please visit http://filt.org.uk/gas-safe-charity/


Help at home for elderly as winter falls

Winter has descended on the UK with snow and cold conditions expected to continue over the coming weeks. Many older and vulnerable people across the country will be suffering from the freezing weather, struggling to heat their cold and poorly insulated homes.

Help is available for people at risk of fuel poverty via the Foundation Independent Living Trust (FILT).  FILT grants fund vital repairs and improvements to make homes more energy efficient and/or easier to keep warm.  Works are carried out by Home Improvement Agencies and include a range of measures from draught proofing and fitting reflector radiator panels to replacement of boilers and central heating systems.

FILT Chair, Sara McKee, said: “Every year we hear of older people falling ill and being admitted to hospital due to the cold conditions, with too many of them dying. This has to stop.

“Our grants are life-changing and life-saving. They mean the difference between living in just one room of the house in an effort to keep warm to being able to live safe, well and warm at home.

“There’s also simple things we can all do like checking in on elderly or vulnerable neighbours while it’s so cold.

FILT has put together a series of tips to help people keep their home warm this winter:

  • The ideal temperature is 64°F (18°C) for your bedroom and 70°F (21°C) for your living room– Check that you know how to use your thermostat and how to control your heating
  • Small, low-cost changes can help keep your home warm – close the curtains when it gets dark, fix draught strips, and fit thermal linings to them if you can.
  • Have your heating system serviced – FILT can help you access funds through the FILT Gas Safety Charity initiative to get your boiler or gas fire serviced.
  • Keep warm to stay healthy – If you have a cold-related health condition, you may be able to get help to fix faulty or broken heating systems from funds such as npower Health Through Warmth.
  • Access help towards your heating costs – you may be eligible for financial assistance to help pay for your heating through schemes like a Warm Homes Discount, Cold Weather Payment, or Winter Fuel Payment.
  • Insulate your property – you may be able to get free or top-up insulation for your loft and /or wall cavities via the energy companies as part of the Government’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme.

The full checklist is available to download here.

To learn more about the grants available from FILT, contact your local home improvement agency who can then apply for the funding on your behalf. To find your local HIA visit www.findmyhia.org.uk and use the searchable directory, or phone Foundations on 0300 124 0315.

 


Small changes make a big difference

Minor home adaptions and repairs can make a big difference to older people’s health,  wellbeing and quality of life according to new research.

The ‘Room to Improve’ report by the Centre for Ageing Better and the University of West of England, Bristol (UWE, Bristol) found investing in home improvements also delivers substantial savings for the NHS and reduces the reliance on social care.

At FILT, we help thousands of older and vulnerable people keep safe, well and warm at home by funding vital home improvements.

Our work, delivered via a network of Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) across England, makes a practical and tangible difference. It helps people to cook safely, have a hot shower and keep their house warm. In a country where winter decimates our older population every year, these changes can literally save lives.

The work we do often involves making small repairs but these deliver a big impact. Just £45 enables a handyperson to fix draughty windows and doors, £95 provides gas safety checks to appliances, £500 repairs a broken or unsafe boiler.

For ever pound spent, our Warm at Home programme saved the NHS £3.30 –  delivering a total saving of £2.4 million in one year through health improvements and preventing avoidable hospital admissions.

Home Improvement Agencies have a vital role to play in delivering positive health outcomes for older people, reducing hospital admissions and possibly avoiding residential care altogether.  This is better for the individual and it is better for our health and social care system.

Let’s work together to make sure the NHS recognises the value of including home improvements in their strategy to improve patient outcomes and deliver greater efficiencies.

 


Taylor Wimpey donation helps our charity keep more people warm and well at home

Our charity has received another generous donation from housebuilding company Taylor Wimpey. The funding will be used to support life-changing interventions that make homes more energy efficient and easier to keep warm for vulnerable people.

FILT funding streams enable our delivery partners to provide a range of support including repairs and improvements to the homes of older and vulnerable people at risk of fuel poverty. Measures range from draught proofing and fitting reflector radiator panels to replacement of boilers and central heating systems.

In the first six months of 2017, funding distributed through our charity has reached over 1,000 people. Support from funders such as Taylor Wimpey can help us reach even more people in need. Even a small amount can make a big difference: just £45 can enable a handyperson to fix draughty windows and doors, £95 can provide gas safety checks to appliances, £500 can repair a broken/unsafe boiler.

Please contact us if you’d like to make a donation to FILT.

 

 

 

 


Funding available to keep warm and safe at home this winter

Vulnerable Britons who are facing the choice of eating or heating this winter have been offered a lifeline.

A report published in The Guardian highlighted concerns about the lack of Government funding to repair gas boilers in the lead-up to winter.

However, a £275,000 grant scheme for gas boiler repairs is available from Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT).

FILT Chair, Sara McKee, said: “It’s often left to the voluntary sector to step into the breach to help those who need it the most. Over the years, FILT has supported thousands of people living in poor housing with no heating or hot water, with many suffering from depression or chronic illness.

“People don’t have to soldier on, confining themselves to living in one room in an effort to conserve heat. I urge anyone concerned about the safety of their gas boiler and staying warm this winter to contact their local Home Improvement Agency. We have money available from the Gas Safe Charity Hardship Grant Scheme to carry out vital boiler repairs now.”

Funding of up to £500 is available per household via the Gas Safe Charity Hardship Grant Scheme which can be accessed by Home Improvement Agencies on behalf of individuals. People eligible for the scheme include:

  • Home owners who are 60 years of age or over and who receive means tested benefit
  • Home owners who are 60 years of age or over and who receive state pension only (with no other income)
  • Home owners who are 60 years of age or over and who are disabled
  • Home owners who are 21 years of age or over and who are disabled

Boiler repair is just one of a number of works that can be funded through the scheme, with a lot of works are for small scale gas safety measures (i.e. servicing) having a big impact on an individual’s safety, warmth and wellbeing. Information and advice about how to apply for funding is available here.

This year FILT has launched a campaign called Begins at Home to highlight the impact small household improvements can have on the health and wellbeing of older, disabled and vulnerable people.

 

 


How £110 can make a big difference

Around 1 in 9 British households live in fuel poverty. Millions of people can’t afford to heat their homes and many suffer from cold-related illness, often exacerbated by poor housing.

Researchers from Bangor University recently examined the impact of warmer social housing on population health and the use of NHS services in the north-west.   They found housing improvements reduced the use of NHS services by 16% per household, saving £20,000 in just six months.

Importantly, people were also healthier and happier with a third no longer showing signs of fuel poverty.

At FILT, we know the difference that small home improvements can make to people who face the choice of eating or heating.

We help thousands of people each year via our grants progammes to live warm, safe and well in their homes.

Just like Miss Mapstone, an 84 year old who lives alone. She was recently visted by Care & Repair to install hand and stair rails after she had suffered a broken wrist after a fall.

During the home visit the Caseworker picked up Miss Mapstone’s nervousness about using her heating.  They discovered that the central heating boiler had not been serviced since it was installed over four years ago and the gas fire, which was over 20 years old, had never been serviced.

With the help of a Gas Safety grant of £110, Care & Repair arranged for the gas boiler and gas fire to be serviced. Unfortunately the gas fire was unsafe and had to be removed.

Miss Mapstone is now happy to use her heating and said: “I feel so much safer knowing my boiler has been serviced and is running how it should.  I was a bit concerned about the fire, and although it was condemned and taken away, I’m still pleased as I would have been using it (the fire) in the winter.

“Now the colder weather is here I’ve started to turn my central heating on without any worries and I know I’ll be warm and safe this winter.”

A small grant – about double the average weekly food shop – has delivered huge benefits.

To learn more about how FILT supports vulnerable people and the grants available, visit http://www.filt.org.uk and remember everything Begins at Home.


Keeping older people warm and out of fuel poverty in Surrey

Imagine being in your 90s and unwell, living alone without heating and hot water because you can’t afford to replace a failed boiler.

That was the case for two Surrey women who both faced a cold and miserable winter, and the possibility of having to move out of their own home. The stress for both them and their families was undeniable.

Enter Care and Repair Elmbridge (CARE) and Independent Home Solutions in Brockham, two Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) funded to make vital repairs via grants from Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT).

The £3000 grants are part of a seed fund from Sutton energy and telecommunications firm MAXIMeyes, provided as part of its Fuel the Change initiative. FILT and MAXIMeyes have teamed up to lift more people out of fuel poverty.

Thanks to the grants, the HIAs were able to conduct a full Warm Home Energy Assessment and organise the boilers to be replaced in each home. Both ladies now have peace of mind, not to mention heating and hot water which enables them to continue living independently in their own home.

The worry about paying for the boiler has now gone, and the risk of cold-related illness has been minimised.

FILT Chair, Sara McKee, said: “This story is a prime example of how a simple maintenance job can make a big difference to someone’s health and wellbeing. There are thousands of people like these two ladies in Surrey who are going without heating or hot water because they can’t afford to replace an old or dangerous boiler.

“They shouldn’t have to make a choice between eating or heating and I’m pleased that FILT, working with the HIAs and corporate supporters like MAXIMeyes, is able to step into the breach.”


Extra money available to keep South Yorkshire homes warmer

Yorkshire Housing’s Home Improvement Agency in Sheffield is delivering the ‘Warm at Home’ project which helps vulnerable people who might be suffering fuel poverty.

This funding is available to home owners, free of charge and will be welcomed by many as we prepare for colder weather. The funding is available to access all year round.

The project has received £13,000 from the Foundations Independent Living Trust, who is working in partnership with the Gas Safe Charity to provide heating measures in Rotherham, Barnsley and Sheffield. The scheme aims to help vulnerable people to access the support available.

Home Improvement Agency manager Layla Gorman said: “Funds like these are critical to the health and wellbeing of vulnerable people. Many people aren’t aware they are living in fuel poverty and suffer in silence in the cold. We urge the residents of South Yorkshire to get in touch to see if we can help put measures in place so that they are warmer when they need to be.”

To find if you’re eligible, call Yorkshire Housing’s Sheffield office on: 0114 256 4270 or go to:
https://www.yorkshirehousing.co.uk/home-improvement/sheffield

 


Taylor Wimpey donation helps vulnerable people live in dignity in own homes

Our charity, which helps older and vulnerable people stay warm, safe and well in their own home has benefited from a large donation from Taylor Wimpey.

The housebuilder has given £20,000 to the Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT) to provide grants to fund vital home improvements when no other support is available. A further £1,400 was also given to our charity on behalf of Taylor Wimpey staff.

The donation will help FILT fund Home Improvement Agencies (HIA) to undertake repair or maintenance work that can help stave off fuel poverty, protect against carbon monoxide poisoning, or provide flood protection.

Last year our charity provided aid to around 3,500 people across England and Taylor Wimpey’s donation will mean FILT will be able to reach an extra 130 of the most vulnerable in the country.

Sara McKee, Chair of FILT, said: “Generous donations from companies like Taylor Wimpey enable us to continue reaching those people who would otherwise slip through the cracks and become a statistic.

The money they’ve donated will go towards grants that help vulnerable people have the basic necessities in life like being able to cook safely, keep their house warm, or have a hot shower. It will also ensure people can return to a warm and safe home after a hospital stay, while reducing the risk of health conditions escalating into emergencies.

“Many of the people we work with are disconnected from their community, through ill-health or social isolation. They are often missed by other services so the HIAs also help people access support ranging from counselling to benefit advice, in addition to doing repairs and maintenance.

James Jordan, the Group Legal Director and Company Secretary from Taylor Wimpey plc, said: “FILT does amazing work and we’re both delighted and very proud to be able to help them reach even more older and vulnerable people who may not be able to receive from other servicess. We know the impact good housing has on improving people’s health and wellbeing, so it’s great to be a part of FILT’s efforts to ensure people can live in a warm and safe home.”

Grants available from FILT include:

  • Health Through Warmth Crisis fund. This can help towards costs of new heating and energy efficiency measures for people who have a cold-related illness;
  • Health Through Warmth rapid care funding, which helps homeowners who are without heating or hot water;
  • Gas Safety grants can provide up to £500 to help make sure gas appliances like gas boilers and cookers are in working order.
  • Safe and Warm grants to carry out minor works to enable independent living, reduce hazards; provide energy efficiency (including cavity wall and loft insulation), draught-proofing; drainage and heating issues, etc. Between £250 and £7,500 is potentially available for those that meet the qualifying criteria.

Applications deadline extended for Gas Safe Charity funding

The our Gas Safe Charity programme, designed to improve gas safety in the homes of older or disabled people, will continue in its fifth year.

We invite all home improvement agencies in England to make an application for funds that can be used on a variety of gas safety works, from servicing to boiler replacements. The deadline has been extended until Friday 26th May.

To request an application form, please send an email to info@filt.org.uk


Minor home repairs bring major benefits to health

Around 9,000 people died during the winter of 2014-15 as a result of living in a cold home. These figures, from a study by University College London, show that one fifth of the 43,900 excess winter deaths were caused by health conditions brought on or exacerbated by fuel poverty.

The risks of cold weather to health are well known. Recent research by the University of Bristol, University College London and the British Heart Foundation found that cold snaps double the risk of a major cardiovascular event. Numerous studies have shown that levels of influenza also rise in the winter, along with respiratory diseases, dementia and increased blood pressure.

Tackling the health consequences of low indoor temperatures is something that Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Regional, Economic and Social Research (CRESR) has been investigating. Our aim is to assess simple, low cost ways to help vulnerable people stay warm in their homes; measures that could be adopted at scale across different heath economies.

We evaluated energy efficiency improvements made to the homes of 4,000 vulnerable people in 2016 by housing charity, Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT). The ‘Warm at Home’ programme provided £637,000 to pay for thousands of repairs, from fitting reflector radiator panels and replacing boilers to draught-proofing windows.

Our evaluation showed that these minor repairs had a sizeable impact on health, wellbeing and likely admission avoidance. Results indicated that the programme led to an additional 121.8 QALYs (quality-adjusted life years). Every £1 spent on home interventions led to £4 in health benefits and the total value of benefits gained was £2,436,000.

Read the full article on the HSJ website

This article was written by Jan Gilbertson, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University


There’s more to integrating housing and health than building new homes

Last year the FILT saved the NHS at least £2.4 million through house improvements for older and vulnerable people at risk of fuel poverty.

We distributed grants worth £637,000 through our Warm at Home programme to 3,600 people in England, helping them stay safe warm and well in their own home. The grants were delivered by 71 Home Improvement Agencies (HIA) across 183 district councils, and funded everything from draught proofing and fitting reflector radiator panels to replacement of boilers and central heating systems.

Yet the role of Home Improvement Agencies isn’t mentioned in the Government’s Fuel Poverty strategy. Nor do HIAs have a seat in the debate about integrating housing, health and social care.

As the new chair of FILT, I’m determined to change this and have set a clear objective to raise the profile of HIAs as a vital delivery partner to the NHS and social care. Here’s why.

HIAs are local and trusted

Discussions about integrating housing and health have focussed on building new types of supported housing or the technology and design features needed to sustain a happy and healthy later life. The HAPPI3 report recommended that the Government should boost supply of housing for the older generation, and the Department of Health should supplement the Government’s capital investment programme for housing with care support.

While I applaud these endeavours, the reality is we’re never going to build enough new housing to support older people, and besides many people want to remain living in their own home. Unfortunately, many of these homes are also not-fit for-purpose for our ageing population and the evidence shows that they either directly lead to an illness or exacerbate an existing condition. A highly influential review found that between 10 and 25 per cent of the 43,900 excess winter deaths in 2014/15 were caused by fuel poverty and cold homes. (Marmot Review 2011).

We believe that the answer to health across ages is to maintain and improve existing housing stock, in addition to new development. Yet the recent Housing White Paper was virtually silent on this. However, if we ‘future-proof’ existing housing for an ageing population, we recognise the emotional attachments to the family home and the importance of a close and better connected community. What’s more, some people are harder to reach than others. People on low incomes, with a disability or chronic illness can often be hard to reach as they might not be registered with a GP, they might be mistrustful of council services or socially isolated.

In our view, HIAs are in a unique position to help.  They are small, locally based not-for-profit organisations that are seen as safe and trusted by the communities they serve. As a result, they can identify those most at risk. They’re also often affiliated to the local social housing provider and can identify other local agencies that can provide people with additional advice and support. Plus, they are exceptionally knowledgeable about extra sources of potential funding, including grants, loans and/or other financial instruments such as equity release.

The multiplier effect – generation x

We know that relatively small home repairs and improvements delivered by HIAs can make a big difference. Not only do they relieve people’s symptoms, but they also make people worry less about their home. According to the evaluation of the Warm at Home programme, this makes them feel healthier, less stressed and better able to manage long term conditions themselves.

Programmes like Warm at Home also have a key role to play in addressing loneliness, which in itself can have huge consequences for an individual’s health and wellbeing through the generations. Visits by the HIAs during the Warm at Home grant programme provided social contact, emotional security, and wellbeing to older and vulnerable clients who were in poor health and often socially isolated.

Small = nimble + flexible

The evaluation of the Warm at Home programme found numerous examples where funding was provided in a few days for urgent home repairs. Swift action prevented further illness or harm such as falls, carbon monoxide poisoning, burns and admissions to hospital and residential care.

The HIAs could act quickly due to their locality, but also due to flexibility and a “light touch” approach to the funding and administration of the Warm At Home grants. The funding’s broad eligibility criteria meant that HIAs could help more people to keep warm, some of whom would not have qualified for other funding schemes.  The equation being fewer restrictions on what could and could not be funded enabled HIAs to use their judgement in order to better meet peoples’ needs and outcomes.

Policy in practice

The outcomes of Warm at Home have demonstrated how HIAs are well placed to deliver current policy recommendations. We will be submitting evidence on this to the Centre for Ageing Better’s consultation, The role of home adaptations in improving later life.

The NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guideline on excess winter deaths also recognises the role of local networks in identifying people at risk of ill health due to cold homes, but also the importance of discharging older people from hospital to a warm home.

In the same guideline, NICE also recommended Health and Wellbeing Boards should commission a local single-point-of-contact health and housing referral service for people living in cold homes. Given the network of HIAs across the country and the breath of services provided, they are ideally placed to fulfil this role.

The Cold Weather Plan is another policy area where HIAs could become a key component of the delivery mechanism both nationally and locally.

Conclusion

The work we do in partnership with the HIAs is really simple. We make cold homes warm. And in doing so we improve people’s health and wellbeing and prevent excess winter deaths.  Together we are a vital cog in this country’s fight against fuel poverty and the fight for good health!

Watch out for our new campaign being launched this April.

This blog was written by Sara McKee, Chair of FILT, and was originally published on the Housing LIN website.


Get help to stay warm at home

Older people and vulnerable adults who are struggling to keep warm in their homes are being urged to reach out to their local home improvement agency to access free grants.

Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT) is raising awareness of the programmes it delivers via home improvement agencies (HIA) and handyperson services in England.

FILT programmes fund life-changing interventions to make homes more energy efficient and/or easier to keep warm. Measures range from draught proofing and fitting reflector radiator panels to replacement of boilers and central heating systems.

Sara McKee, Chair of FILT, said: “Cold, damp and poorly insulated housing can lead to worsening health, risk of injury, social isolation and sadly death. People don’t have to suffer in silence – there is support available to improve the warmth and safety of their homes.”

In 2015/16 the charity’s Warm at Home programme distributed £637,000 grants to 3,600 people across the country, helping them stay safe warm and well in their home and saving the NHS an estimated £2.4 million.

People at risk of fuel poverty and who need help, should contact their local home improvement agency who can then apply for the funding on their behalf.

To find your local HIA visit www.findmyhia.org.uk and use the searchable directory, or phone Foundations on 0300 124 0315.


FILT guest blog on the Turn2Us website

We have been asked by our partners at Turn2Us to write a guest blog for their website. The article focuses on the funding we can offer to make homes warmer and safer. You can read the full article here.


Fix our broken housing, not just the market!

Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT) is calling on the Government and corporate Britain to dig deeper and fix the country’s broken housing as part of National Energy Action’s Fuel Poverty Awareness Day (17 February).

We operate grants for local home improvement agencies (HIAs) to provide a range of support including repairs and improvements to the homes of older people and vulnerable people at risk of fuel poverty.

Our charity wants to raise an additional £100,000 this financial year to reach an extra 500 people in need.

Sara McKee, Chair of FILT, said:  “We need to fix the country’s broken housing, not just the broken housing market. Millions of people are living in houses that are not-fit-for-purpose and they don’t have the means to pay for repairs or make their homes more energy efficient. 

“This leaves them at risk of illness and people can die. You only have to look at hospital A&E departments and winter mortality rates to see the impact fuel poverty can have on someone’s health.

“We help thousands of people stay safe, well and warm in their own homes, but that’s a drop in the ocean. There are nearly 2.4 million households living in fuel poverty (1) and we have an army of handypersons who want to help them, but we need the support of Government and corporate Britain in order to do more.

“Poor housing costs the NHS an estimated £1.4 billion per annum (2). It makes sense to invest in prevention rather than cure at a time when the NHS is stretched to breaking point.”

FILT grants enable life-changing interventions to make homes more energy efficient and/or easier to keep warm. Measures range from draught proofing and fitting reflector radiator panels to replacement of boilers and central heating systems. Grant beneficiaries include people over 60, who were living on a low income, with a disability or long-term illness.

In 2015/16 our charity’s Warm at Home programme distributed £637,000 grants to 3,600 people across the country, helping them stay safe warm and well in their home and saving the NHS an estimated £2.4 million.

Our support keeps people happy at home and a small amount of money can make a big difference,” concludes Sara. ”Just £45 can enable a handyperson time to fix draughty windows and doors, £95 can provide gas safety checks to appliances, £500 can repair a broken/unsafe boiler.”


New Chair for our charity

We are pleased to announce that our charity has elected Manchester entrepreneur and campaigner Sara McKee as chair.

Sara has extensive experience in running blue-chip organisations, SMEs and large not-for-profits. She’s also influenced public policy for aged care, housing and welfare-to-work, and has set her sights on ending ageism and transforming lifestyle choices for older people via Evermore.

Sara replaces Stephen Burke, who chaired FILT for two years and has overseen a period of major growth. A £637k programme managed by FILT in 2015/16 has helped 3,600 people stay in their own homes warm, safe and well, and saved the NHS £2.4m.

Sara McKee said: “FILT looks after thousands of home owners who don’t have the resources to maintain their properties and often face hardships through cold, damp and uninhabitable situations. This has a knock on effect to local authorities and the NHS as it has been proven that poor housing has a massive impact on health.

“That’s why I’m passionate about building up FILT’s funds so that we can reach more people across ages who can continue to thrive at home with a little bit of support.  A few hundred pounds in repair costs can be unaffordable for many but make all the difference to their long-term health and wellbeing.  As incoming Chair, I intend to campaign actively and approach companies large and small to support those living in their communities – so prepare to dig deep.”

FILT finances practical work to the homes of hard-to-reach householders, for example boiler repairs, draught-proofing windows or safety checking and replacing old gas fires. Its programmes prevent poor health caused by cold homes, tackle gas safety issues and provide solutions for energy efficiency and fuel poverty.  The charity works with nearly one hundred home improvement agencies (HIAs) across England to deliver the work on the ground.

In the future, FILT aims to expand the range of work it finances and is keen to partner with companies looking to reach vulnerable, older and disabled groups through corporate social responsibility funds.


FILT continues partnership with SSE

The Warm at Home programme has received further funding from energy provider SSE. It will continue to enable quick interventions to make the homes more energy efficient and/or easier to keep warm. The measures will range from draught proofing and fitting reflector radiator panels to replacement of boilers and central heating systems.

The programme will be delivered by 20 home improvement agencies who have received grants between £3,000 and £15,000 to carry out home assessments for 750 householders and complete 380 energy efficiency-related works.

Read the evaluation report of the first 12 months of the programme.


Warm at Home programme has helped thousands of householders stay in their own home ‘warm, safe and well’

  • The timely interventions provided social contact, emotional security, and wellbeing to householders who were in poor health and often experiencing isolation
  • Householders reported considerable improvements in their home conditions and warmer temperatures, which led to enhanced comfort
  • For every £1 of the funding distributed to households, the programme produced almost £4 of benefits in terms of better health

A £637k programme managed by the charity Foundations Independent Living Trust has helped 3,600 people stay in their own home warm, safe and well over a 12 month period.

The funding enabled life-changing interventions to make the homes more energy efficient and/or easier to keep warm. The measures ranged from draught proofing and fitting reflector radiator panels to replacement of boilers and central heating systems. The programme beneficiaries were over 60, on a low income or with a disability or long-term illness.

Work on the ground was delivered by 71 Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) operating across 183 local authority areas. HIAs are local, trusted organisations which can provide access to tailored services that address common barriers to tackling cold homes. They are placed in a unique position to identify, reach and provide solutions for at-risk people, who are often on low incomes and facing the challenges of living in cold homes – worsening health, risk of injury and social isolation.

An evaluation report, Warm, Safe and Well, published today by the Centre for Regional, Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University found that the Warm at Home programme alleviated stress and had a positive impact on people’s quality of life and wellbeing, their feelings of safety and security and their control of the home environment. Smaller practical improvements often made a big difference to daily lives, which enhanced wellbeing and independence.

Benefits were sizeable when compared to the average cost of the intervention, which was £241. For every £1 of funding through the Warm at Home programme, an additional minimum £2.42 was levered in from other sources.

Sue Falder, team leader at Derbyshire HIA, one of the HIAs that took part in the programme delivery, commented: “We welcomed the opportunity to participate in the Warm at Home programme.  It was a fantastic  source of funding that enabled us  to fund or joint fund  essential heating repairs/improvements for our  vulnerable clients, enabling them to live in a warmer home, improving their sense of wellbeing and reducing their risk from cold.  The funding also generated additional funding of £76,761 to contribute to work that was undertaken.”

The review also found that the WAH Programme appeared to be filling a gap in service provision, helping people who were suffering from ill health and enduring cold or unsafe conditions in their homes, but who were just above the income eligibility criteria for other energy efficiency schemes.

The timeliness of the WAH intervention and being able to provide immediate relief to householders was seen as a major advantage of the programme.  HIAs provided numerous examples of cases where they had been able to intervene quickly and it was likely they had prevented further illness or harm (such as hospital admissions, falls, prevented accidents and exacerbations of underlying chronic conditions). One HIA reported instances of boilers leaking carbon monoxide so the Warm at Home intervention may well have saved lives!

The people helped through the programme regarded HIAs as safe, trusted organisations that went the ‘extra mile’ and checked to see if everything was okay after work was completed.  Having a trusted organisation provided people with reassurance. Contact with HIAs resulted in some householders being given additional information, advice and support and benefiting from follow up services provided either by the HIA themselves or by other local agencies.

Emma Moraitis, team leader at Homelife Carlisle, said: “The holistic home visits enhanced the ability to identify wider issues and we were able to refer to other local authority services such as income maximisation, referrals to Environmental Health and helped identify other appropriate grants and services. We were also able to refer traditional ‘hard to reach’ clients to various Health and Social Care services that they would not likely have accessed without the programme and we were able to target the funding to help speed up hospital discharge.

The Warm at Home programme therefore helped people to stay warm but also assisted people to be better able to afford heating their homes thus reducing fuel poverty. Importantly the programme had the added value of raising awareness of and accessing other housing related, health and social care services.”

Stephen Burke, Chair of FILT, said: “The evaluation shows how thousands of householders have been helped to live ‘warm, safe and well’. Relatively small and swift improvements to their homes and heating made a big difference to their quality of life, their health and their peace of mind. With more funding, FILT and local home improvement agencies could help many more people stay in their own home. It would also lead to big savings for our health and care services.

Download the Warm, Safe and Well report

Download the report summary


FILT partnership helps more people to live healthier, more independent lives

A partnership project supporting people over the age of 50 in St Helens to lead healthier, more independent lives in their own homes is celebrating its first anniversary.

The home support service is a lottery-funded partnership made up of our charity Foundations Independent Living Trust, the British Red Cross and the Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. The service has supported nearly 150 people in its first 12 months.

It offers practical and emotional support to people and has been designed to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions, and reduce pressure on local healthcare services.

Judith Ward, independent living service manager for the British Red Cross in St Helens, said: “Our volunteers offer practical and emotional support to people in their homes for up to 6 weeks. They help people by lending mobility equipment, supporting them to lead healthier lifestyles and to meet new people.

“We can also provide advice on adaptations, making homes warmer, hand and shoulder massages, and we can support people to develop personal health plans or accompany them to go shopping.

“Local young people play a vital role in the partnership. We ask users to place a card in their window every morning. But if pupils do not see it on their way to school, they inform a member of staff who alerts health or social care staff.”

Jean’s story

86-year-old Jean Bone is unable to leave her home because of a range of medical conditions.

Staff from the partnership ring her each morning to check she is safe and well. They also visit her in person and have helped her to apply for mobility aids.

Jean said: “They do everything, I only need to phone them if I need advice or anything.

They helped me get a trolley to eat my dinner from and that’s been wonderful.

The visits make a big difference in my life – I don’t feel as lonely.”

Tom Glynn is one of the members of staff who supports Jean. He arranged for her to be present at a Red Cross coffee morning via Skype.  The coffee morning was organised by pupils from Wargrave Primary School who enjoyed chatting to Jean on the computer and ensuring she was part of the event.

Tom said: “Jean is a very independent person. She is able to play an active role in her local community thanks to her computer and Skype.”

To find out more about the support at home service, ring 01925 295614 or email shsupport@redcross.org.uk


We are looking for new trustees to join our board

Foundations has been the government appointed national body for Home Improvement Agency (HIA) services since 2000. Foundations set up the charity Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT), a growing and innovative national charity that raises funds to help older adults and disabled people be warm, safe and well in their own homes. As a forward thinking charity, we are looking for new trustees with the passion and desire to support the development of the charity’s work and increase our income and reach.

Your skills

We are aiming to broaden our networks and experience of the board as we continue to develop our links and strengthen our finance expertise. We also wish to reflect the diversity of our service users in our board. If you have skills and experience in fundraising and business development with a strategic overview of housing and social care, we would like to hear from you!

What’s involved

As a board member you will be expected to attending quarterly board and finance meetings which are generally hosted in London and attend other events as relevant; provide a strategic lead to develop the charity and its work; identify new funding opportunities for the charity; advise and support the charity’s secretariat. In return we offer out of pocket expenses and the opportunity to develop your skills and experience with an active board.

Interested?

To apply, please send a CV with covering letter setting out why you want to be a trustee of Foundations Independent Living Trust and what you could bring to the role to help develop and grow the charity, to applications@FILT.org.uk.

The closing date is 28th February 2017.

For an informal discussion, please contact our charity Chair, Sara McKee,  at info@filt.org.uk.


FILT funds floods officer position to help Carlisle flood victims get back on their feet

Meet Jack Dilley – the man offering a lifeline to flood victims. He has taken on a key role offering extra support to those hit by the storms of last December and helping them get back in their homes and protect their properties against future disasters.

The floods officer has just started the new role with Carlisle City Council, which itself was ravaged by flooding. Mr Dilley’s post has come about after the council and other organisations identified the need for extra full-time support for affected people in the city.

His role is funded by the Foundations Independent Living Trust charity, which works across the country to help vulnerable people remain in their own homes.

He’s tasked with making sure that the hundreds of people who still aren’t back in their homes following December’s floods get back in as soon as possible and he’s there to help residents iron out any problems.

I can’t promise to help everyone but what I will promise is to try to help people as much as I can, there’s no turn away,” he told The Cumberland News.

But Mr Dilley’s key purpose is to encourage householders to take advantage of the raft of grants available to help them make their homes more resilient against future flooding.

Grants of up to £5,000 are there to take advantage of – and they can pay for things like flood doors, flood barriers, automatic airbrick closures, non-return valves, pumps, raising electrics and concrete floors.

Should the city be struck by flooding again, measures like those are designed to either help keep water out of properties or speed up the recovery process.

Only 35 per cent of people who are eligible have applied for the flood resilience grants meaning hundreds more families are missing out on financial support to help protect their homes.

We need to get the message out there that there is help,” Mr Dilley added.

I think one thing why people haven’t applied is because they don’t know about it.

“There’s also a lot of proud people out there who might think they don’t need help.

“But the grants can also help retrospectively as well.”

The officer is urging people to take advantage of the money on offer or to flag up the opportunities with friends or relatives that have been affected.

Mr Dilley, the city council and other organisations have joined forces to offer as much support as possible to flood victims and help is always at hand, such as at a new centre in Spencer Street in the city centre.

We have a team of people that can help fill out forms, arrange surveys and get quotes so it makes the whole thing easier,” he continued.

In the past couple of weeks an elderly lady who was living in a bedroom upstairs with a hot plate and washing her dishes in the bath came to us for help and we’ve been able to do that.

He is also in the process of planning a flood awareness open day at Greystone Community Centre on October 25, between 2pm and 6pm.

There’s also a host of additional grants available to support vulnerable residents in Carlisle that Mr Dilley can help with, such as:

* Health through warmth crisis grant. This can help towards costs of new heating and energy efficiency measures for people who have a cold-related illness;

* Health through warmth rapid care funding, which helps homeowners who are without heating or hot water;

* Gas safety grants can supply up to £500 to help make sure things such as gas boilers and cookers are in working order.

* Minor works grants involve up to £5,000 for pensioners for essential works to properties to improve the health and wellbeing of the occupant.

Mr Dilley can be contacted by calling 01228 817301 or by emailing paul.dilley@carlisle.gov.uk.

 

This article was originally posted on the Cumberland News website


Report highlights role for Disabled Facilities Grants in linking up housing, health and social care

Some 40,000 people a year receive Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) to pay for home adaptations such as stairlifts, level access showers and ramps.

This is set to rise to 85,000 by the end of the decade thanks to increases in government funding. It should pave the way to greater increase use of a cost-effective grant that helps to reduce hospital admissions, cut care costs, delay the move into residential care and speed up hospital discharge.

Yet awareness of DFGs is still low, provision is fragmented and too often older and disabled people are left to search out solutions themselves.

The findings come in a new comprehensive report, commissioned by Foundations (the national body for DFGs and home improvement agencies) and supported by a range of partner organisations, examining how DFG has developed since it was introduced in the early 1990s. The report highlights areas at the cutting edge of provision – such as Knowsley, Cornwall and Ealing – where services have been joined up to great effect.

By pulling together support from home improvement agencies, occupational therapists and other health and care professionals – potentially in the form of new arm’s length management organisations, as Sunderland has done – the report suggests support will achieve a higher profile and be delivered more efficiently.

It will also build greater capacity to support those not eligible for DFGs, relieving the pressure on hospitals and social care departments through preventative approaches as England adapts to an ageing population.

DFGs are awarded by local authorities and are predominantly delivered by home improvement agencies, a network of 200 organisations across England based in local authorities, housing associations or run as standalone charities.

After being in what report authors Sheila Mackintosh and Philip Leather describe as a “policy vacuum” since its inception, “not really belonging to housing, health or social care”, DFG became part of the Better Care Fund (BCF) in 2014.

The report highlights this as an important breakthrough: “The accessibility of the home is finally being recognised as important for successful hospital discharge, to enable care to take place at home, and to allow people to live independent lives… it is possible to join up the previous disjointed pathways and link the DFG to other related health and care services in a way that will make much more sense to customers. Rather than standing alone as a single solution it can be part of a more holistic range of interventions to help older and disabled people remain independent at home.”

The report identifies key ways in which DFG can fulfil its potential:

  • Areas that have multi-skilled teams and have adopted lean systems, such as Ealing, appear to be delivering faster services with fewer staff – this approach needs to be adopted elsewhere
  • Older and disabled people often have to navigate complex service pathways to find the support they need. A much simpler system could be created that joins up provision – run by a local authority, HIA, combination of the two or through a new arm’s length management organisation
  • Funding levels clearly affect delivery times as backlogs occur when funding is restricted. This is less of an issue where teams have strong management, are outward looking, engaged with the health and wellbeing board, and where they have the support of elected officials
  • More robust information is needed on the outcomes of adaptations. Better data would enable the case for additional resources to be made much more effectively. Up to now the focus both locally and nationally has been on presenting data on expenditure rather than the impact on customers and on health and social care spending
  • Better Care Fund plans should include more detail on DFG including financial and staffing resources, the DFG delivery process, and the measurement of outcomes
  • GPs and other health professionals should be more involved in referrals to ensure better targeting of DFGs

Paul Smith, director of Foundations, said: “This report will be invaluable to all those involved in the commissioning and delivery of DFG – from health and wellbeing boards and clinical commissioning groups to home improvement agencies and disability organisations.

“We must work together to maximise the record levels of public money now being allocated to DFG and deliver more integrated and targeted services. This report sets out how that can be achieved.”

Download the report

Main findings


Homelife Carlisle win ‘FILT Delivery Partner of the Year’ award

This year’s winners of the national Home Improvement Agency and Handyperson Service Awards have been announced at a ceremony in the House of Lords.

Organised by Foundations and sponsored by AKW, the annual awards recognise the efforts of England’s 200-strong HIA sector to offer a wide range of home support to disabled and older vulnerable people on low incomes.

HIAs enable people to live independently in their own homes by providing everything from adaptations to specialised support for people with long-term conditions such as dementia.

Among the winners and commended entries were HIAs based within local authorities, housing associations and independent charities.

Homelife Carlisle’s work with Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT) to deliver emergency support to those worst affected by the winter flooding in Cumbria made it a worthy winner of the FILT Delivery Partner of the Year award. Based at Carlisle City Council, the HIA played a key role in utilising the FILT Floods Fund to help people get back on track, by visiting those affected and then carrying out a range of work from drying out properties to fixing boilers and ensuring houses are warm and safe to live in. The holistic approach taken by Homelife Carlisle meant many other issues, such as debt problems and health worries, were also flagged up and householders referred to relevant support.

Read more on the Foundations website.


Missing link

Housing adaptations can help old patients move from expensive hospital beds to the comfort of their own home, says Paul Smith – Foundations’ director.

This article was originally published in Inside Housing

The recent report from the National Audit Office (NAO) on ‘Discharging Older Patients from Hospital’ made for uncomfortable reading. A rapidly increasing older population means that 62% of hospital patients are now over 65 and delays in their discharge from hospital accounted for 1.15 million bed days in 2014/15 at an estimated cost of £820m. However, a quick word search reveals not a single mention of ‘housing’ in the report despite numerous references to assessments and care taking place in the person’s own home.

Since the report was published other housing organisations have called for surplus NHS and to be given over for new supported housing schemes to provide a ‘step-down’ facility between hospital and home. The theory is that this would create a buffer at a lower cost, but it would take several years to realise and it would still cost more than helping people back to where they want to be – their own home.

So what can the housing sector do in the short term? Well, the NAO report does talk about adaptations as part of the ‘home with support’ discharge pathway.

Funding for Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) has increased significantly this year thanks to extra investment from the Department of Health. DFG is the main source of funding for home adaptations and is increasingly being used more flexibly to meet local needs. For instance, fast tracking adaptations to make a house safer to return to.

Home Improvement Agency (HIA) services are also helping people to return home sooner. Revival is a great example of a HIA run by Staffordshire Housing Association. They employ support workers based in the local hospital whose role is to meet the patient on the ward and then visit their home to assess how safe it would be when they’re discharged. They can arrange all sorts of services like cleaning, fitting grab rails, moving beds downstairs, identifying and removing trips hazards, fitting smoke alarms, repairing faulty boilers and so on.

Whatever the solution, the inclusion of DFG funding within the Better Care Fund means that discussions are now happening at Health & Wellbeing Boards across England. Some are at a very early stage, but it is opening the door to more joined up working across health, social care and housing for all tenures. However many accessible new homes we build, the issue for the vast majority of people will be the safety and accessibility of their existing home. We need to take this opportunity to ensure that housing services are in place to support hospital discharge for older people in a timely manner.

Foundations is now coordinating the pioneering Health and Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between government departments, its agencies such NHS England and Public Health England and a range of professional and trade bodies. It offers a great opportunity for more collaborative approaches to hospital discharge to be developed and the learning disseminated.


FILT supports the fifth annual Gas Safety Week

The fifth annual Gas Safety Week (14 – 19 Sept 2015) will see organisations across the UK working together to raise awareness of the dangers of poorly maintained gas appliances, which cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. In the last year, at least 68,000 homes in the UK escaped deadly gas incidents such as these, by engineers switching off dangerous appliances[1]. Nearly one in two of these incidents were caused because a gas appliance had not been regularly serviced and had been left in a poor state[2].

With 20 deaths and 1,000 gas-related injuries in the last three years[3], it’s vital that people make sure their gas appliances are safety checked every year by a registered engineer. Anyone working on gas appliances while not being Gas Safe registered, is working illegally.

We are also delighted that the independent Gas Safe Charity has confirmed a further award of funding to Foundations Independent Living Trust.

FILT helps older, vulnerable and disabled people to stay warm, safe and well their homes. They do this by distributing funds to home improvement agencies and handypersons services across England. The funding will be used for completion of specified gas safety works for vulnerable clients.

FILT has been working on behalf of the Gas Safe Charity throughout the past year to provide help to 825 households through vital work such as gas safety checks, boiler servicing and repairs, pipework repairs and checks and repairs to gas fires. Gordon Lishman CBE, chair of the charity, emphasised the value and achievements of the programme, which has been successful in doubling the charity’s support by accessing grants from other sources: “we are impressed by the effectiveness of this initiative in supporting people who need that extra bit of help to carry on managing in their own homes”.

Vulnerable people such as Mr Jones who is 76 and lives alone. He suffers with dementia, arthritis and heart failure, is in constant pain and has poor mobility.

Due to confusion and poor mobility, Mr Jones was sleeping downstairs in a chair.  He had a gas fire in the living room which was not working properly and therefore needed disconnecting.  Due to his illness he had no awareness of gas safety and had previously left the gas cooker on, sometimes not ignited.

Mr Jones was unable to pay for the necessary changes to be made to his property which would keep him safe.  He was awarded £246 through the Gas Safety Charity to disconnect the mains gas supply and make changes so he could live more safely in his home.

Jonathan Samuel, managing director for Gas Safe Register, said: “We know from our own investigations that one in six gas appliances in the UK are unsafe[4], meaning far too many people are victims of preventable gas related incidents. It’s great to have the support of Foundations this Gas Safety Week so that we can work together to raise public awareness of gas safety and reduce the number of dangerous gas appliances lurking in the homes of the UK’s 23 million gas consumers.”

 

Follow these three simple top tips to stay gas safe:

•             Get all of your gas appliances safety checked once a year by a registered engineer and sign up to a free reminder service at www.StayGasSafe.co.uk

•             Make sure your engineer is legal and safe, by making sure they are registered with Gas Safe Register, the UK’s official gas authority. You can check by calling 0800 408 5500 or visiting www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk

•             Check for warning signs your appliances aren’t working correctly, such as a lazy yellow flame instead of a crisp blue one, black marks on or around the appliance and too much condensation in the room.


[1] Gas Safe Register surveyed 1,658 registered engineers in June 2014. Amongst surveyed gas engineers, 57 per cent said they had switched off a deadly appliance in the last year. There are 120,000 registered engineers, so 57 per cent equates to at least 68,000 homes avoiding a deadly gas incident.

[2] 45 per cent of engineers surveyed said the reason they had to turn off a gas appliance in the past 12 months was because the appliance had been poorly maintained.

[3] 20 people died from gas related incidents in the UK in the last three years and 961 non-fatalities were reported (Source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/tables/ridgas.xls statistics 2011-14 (provisional))

[4] Gas Safe Register has inspected gas appliances in 121,587 homes across Great Britain for the period 1 April 2010 – 1 May 2014. One in six (17.1%) were identified as unsafe.