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1 October 2020

Stairlifts from the council

Looking to get your stairlift funded by your local council or housing association? We explain what you'll need to do to get the ball rolling. 
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Joanna Pearl

If you want to get your stairlift funded or provided by your local council or housing association, you will need to contact them for an assessment. This will usually be done by an occupational therapist (OT). 

They will make recommendations about whether a stairlift, or other equipment or adaptations will best meet your needs. The best place to start the process is through your local council's social services department.

If you're considering buying a stairlift, find out the best stairlift brands, according to our independent customer survey, and where to buy your stairlift.

Getting a stairlift from your local council

These are the steps you'll need to go through:

Arranging an assessment for a stairlift

To get your stairlift funded or provided by your local district council or housing association, you will need to contact them to arrange an assessment.

You have to contact the authority to which you pay your council tax. If you're a housing association tenant, telephone direct and they will advise what arrangements they have in place.

An alternative place to start the process is through your local authority's social services department. Contact them to request an assessment, stating that you're experiencing difficulty using your stairs.

It's possible that the department will prioritise people in order of urgency, so you may need to wait for a visit to assess your home. You can ask how long the wait is likely to be.

When we surveyed people in 2020 who got a stairlift for themselves or a relative, 10% had got it through the council, their housing association or an OT.

A number of brands were provided, including bigger companies, such as Stannah, and smaller ones, such as Thyssenkrupp.

Your stairlift assessment visit

The assessment will usually be done by an OT.  

The therapist will make recommendations about whether a stairlift, or other equipment or adaptations will best meet your needs and whether they can be provided.

They will ask questions about your abilities and mobility, including any medical conditions that may affect you in the future.

They will assess how many people live in the property, and make sure they'll be able to get up and down the stairs safely if a lift is installed.

The OT will talk to you about what you want to be able to do now and in the longer term, to ensure that their recommendations best meet your needs now and in the future.

It's important to note that although you may consider a stairlift to be the best option, it may not be suitable for your home or medical condition. The occupational therapist will do their best to identify the best solutions for you.

If the occupational therapist advises that a stairlift is the most appropriate option, they will advise you on how to fund it.

Funding your stairlift

You'll also need to discuss the arrangements for funding and providing stairlifts in your local area, as they vary.  

In some areas, the district council makes arrangements to lease new or reconditioned stairlifts, while some hold their own second-hand stock. Others will ask you to apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. If you're in Scotland, the alternative is a scheme of assistance.

A DFG maximum award is £30,000 in England, £36,000 in Wales and £25,000 in Northern Ireland.

The ownership of the property may also affect how the application proceeds. If you have a private tenancy property then you'll need your landlord’s permission to proceed with a DFG application.

If you're expected to apply for a DFG you'll have a financial assessment, and your income and savings will be taken into account.

It's possible that the process will take longer while the council reviews your financial information.

Depending on your income you may be awarded a full grant or a percentage towards the costs.

How long will you wait?

Six months should be the maximum waiting time for a decision and the work should be completed within a year following that.

Some local authorities are quicker than others, though, so check on how you application is progressing every now and again.

Getting the stairlift

It's then likely that it will be your responsibility to arrange for the stairlift companies to visit, carry out a survey and provide a quote.

If you're unable to do this, you can ask the district council that is responsible for processing the application, or your OT service, to help. 

District councils generally have teams available to provide assistance, sometimes known as Staying Put Teams or Contract Teams.

Care of your stairlift

Once you've got your DFG stairlift, it becomes your personal property and you're generally responsible for the servicing and repairs. Be sure to check this, as it can be a costly extra. 

In occasional exceptional circumstances, the district council may pick up maintenance costs.

If you live in an area where the council carries a stock of second-hand stairlifts and has one that's suitable, you may be offered this option, either permanently or in a leasing arrangement. 

The council is then responsible for the repairs and maintenance.

Waiting times for private stairlifts

While waiting for a council-funded stairlift can be a lengthy process, it's a very different story in the private market.

In terms of someone coming out for an initial assessment, Acorn says it can offer a same-day appointment in most cases. Age UK (Handicare) can do same-day installation if needed and Stannah said the wait is typically one to two days, but may be quicker.

Bespoke stairlifts – for example, curved ones – take longer to make (generally up to two weeks), but the company will advise on this when the surveyor visits for an initial assessment.

Installation generally takes a matter of hours.

Find out more, including what price you can expect to pay, in our guide to buying a stairlift.