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Both the local social and healthcare services have a duty to provide support and assistance to people with eligible needs and this will include the provision of equipment, modifications and adaptations to the property.

In this article, we look at:

1. Finding out if your relative is eligible for local authority support
2. What will happen at the assessment
3. Following the assessment
4. Getting the equipment

Finding out if your relative is eligible for local authority support

If you think your relative would benefit from equipment or home adaptations to help them stay safe at home as well as providing more independence to manage for longer with or without assistance, the first step is to get a needs assessment from his or her local authority.

A care specialist, such as an occupational therapist or a social worker, will look at your relative’s situation as a whole, including any needs for domiciliary care, technology to manage risk and accommodation needs. Local authorities will only loan or give you money to buy equipment or fund alterations that they have assessed as being necessary.

If you are the main carer for your relative, you can also request a carer’s assessment of your needs and you may find that you are entitled to help and support when you are providing care.

If your relative is in hospital

If your relative's key worker or liaison nurse feels 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.

What will happen at the assessment

The OT (or other care professional) 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.

We explain this in greater detail in The care needs assessment process.

Following the assessment

If the OT assesses your relative as having eligible needs, he or she will then make recommendations in a care plan for any equipment and/or adaptations relating to your relative’s needs. There is no charge for essential health and social care equipment.

It is important to also realise that, in the main, this equipment is considered to be on long-term loan to the person who needs it. So once it is finished with, it will have to be returned to the service.

More importantly this also means the provider is responsible for the maintenance and any servicing of the equipment. This may be an added advantage to your relative if high cost equipment is required.

The local authority doesn’t provide funding for scooters and wheelchairs.

Major adaptations

If the OT recommends major adaptations (costing more than £1,000), 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.

If the property isn't suitable for a conversion

If your relative’s property is not suitable for conversion, they may need to consider a move to a property that has already been adapted, or would be easier to adapt.

Your relative might also want to consider sheltered housing. These properties have been created with older people in mind and are usually compact and easy to get around. Most have been built (or adapted) to suit people with reduced mobility or disabilities.

If your relative is deemed ineligible for local authority support

You or your relative can still organise to get hold of certain pieces of equipment, from, say, the wheelchair service if he or she has a permanent disability or a community nurse. For this support, your relative will need to have a GP referral.

In other circumstances, you will need to do your own research: see Finding out what home care products are available.

Getting the equipment

It is possible that even if your relative is deemed eligible for certain pieces of equipment that he or she (or you) will have to get hold of it yourselves. If you are self-referring, then you will definitely have to follow this route.

Generally the available equipment is held in one central store but different health and social care professionals are likely to have access to different types of equipment.

There will also be different local arrangements for acquiring equipment, so in the first instance it may be best to make a call to your local social services to ascertain the best route to obtain the assistance that you need.

You can find local authority services for older people in our Care services directory.

As a guide, you should speak to these professionals for the following pieces of equipment:

  • Occupational therapists (OTs) are usually employed by the social services (although private OTs also exist) and will provide support with practical alterations that will make your relative’s home safer and easier for them to use.
  • Physiotherapists are generally employed by the health services and will generally be responsible for the provision of mobility equipment. If you are using the services of a private physiotherapist, ask them how you can buy privately.
  • Community nurses working alongside your relative’s GP can generally provide a range of equipment needed to care for people at home, including beds, commodes and incontinence supplies.
  • Wheelchair service: wheelchairs are normally issued direct from the wheelchair service, managed by the local health service. You will be able to find their phone number via the local authority or your health centre.

More information

Page last reviewed:  November 2016
Next review due: January 2019