Local authority help is available for assessing your relative’s needs if you think they would benefit from equipment or home adaptations to help them stay at home.

The first step if you’re getting more than a simple piece of equipment is to get professional advice, which could include an assessment from an occupational therapist (OT), if this hasn’t already been done as a part of your relative’s needs assessment.

What an occupational therapist or physiotherapist can do for you

An OT can give advice about practical alterations that will make your relative’s home safer and easier for them to use. If your relative is experiencing difficulties in other areas, too, the council may recommend a full needs assessment. This will look at their situation as a whole, including any needs for Domiciliary care.

Alternatively, for NHS equipment such as walking aids and wheelchairs, arrange for a visit from a physiotherapist via your GP or other health professional, although you won’t be able to do this via the local authority or as a part of the needs assessment.

Wherever your relative lives, the first step is to get a professional assessment of their needs, because local authorities will only loan or give you money to buy equipment or aids, or fund alterations, that they have assessed as being necessary.

If your relative is in hospital

If your relative's key worker or liaison nurse feel that your relative would benefit from home adaptations or equipment as a part of their ongoing care and support, they will arrange for an occupational therapist (OT) to visit them before they leave hospital. The OT may also need to visit your relative’s home to get an idea of the difficulties they might face. You can request to be present at the visit.

If your relative is at home

If you or your relative feel their need for special equipment is increasing, you can arrange an assessment by contacting the social services department of your relative’s local council.

To find out more, see our articles:

What happens next

The OT will speak with your relative and look around their home to identify what difficulties they face. It can be helpful for you, or another family member, to be present during this assessment to support your relative and make sure that all the important issues are discussed.

During the assessment the OT should discuss possible solutions and explain the options for funding any necessary work. Your relative should ask questions and discuss all the various options with the OT at this stage, because if there is to be any local authority funding as a result of the assessment it will be based on the OT’s recommendations.

Following the assessment, the OT will make recommendations about any equipment and/or adaptations your relative needs. If the recommended alterations cost less than £1,000, social services will often provide and fit these free of charge. 

The OT can also advise on mobility equipment your relative might benefit from, such as walking sticks, walking frames or bath seats, as well as other helpful equipment for general safety in and outside the home.

In Northern Ireland, community OTs work in integrated Health and Social Care Trusts (HSCTs). There is open access to these services, although an up-to-date medical picture from your GP can be helpful. Following the assessment, the OT will make recommendations for any equipment and/or adaptations relative to your needs. There is no charge for essential HSC Trust equipment.

In Scotland, local authorities might charge for these alterations.

In Wales, local authorities may charge for the alterations, but in line with charging policies for non-residential care, any charges must be 'reasonable' and have regard to an individual's ability to pay. For small-scale adaptations, people may be able to apply for funding (up to £350) under the Rapid Response Adaptation Programme administered by Care & Repair Cymru. Your relative must be referred for this by a health or social care professional.

Major adaptations

If the OT recommends major adaptations (costing more than £1000), your relative can apply for a grant from their local council to help with costs (called a Disabled Facilities Grant, and available if you’re the owner of your property or the tenant). A family member, landlord or Home Improvement Agency can apply for local authority grants on your relative’s behalf.

Local authorities will only fund work that they have assessed your relative as needing. They are only available to people who meet certain eligibility criteria. They could be used to fund work such as:

  • widening doorways
  • installing a stair lift
  • converting a downstairs room to a toilet or bathroom
  • making outside steps easier to use, or installing ramps
  • adapting heating or lighting controls to make them easier to use.

The local authority doesn’t provide funding for scooters and wheelchairs, but there are other schemes available to help pay for such items. We cover this in Financing home alterations.

More information

Page last reviewed: March 2015
Next review due: November 2016