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Home & garden.

12 November 2021

Getting help with home adaptations

The right adaptations can help an older or disabled person stay safe and independent at home. Read about the benefits of adaptations and how to apply for financial help with the costs.
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Which?Editorial team

The benefits of home adaptations

Making the right adaptations in the home, at the right time, is an important way to help you stay independent for as long as possible in later life. And while adaptations can be expensive, they will often work out as more cost-effective than other options, such as moving house or residential care. 

Home adaptations can help you continue to carry out everyday activities, prevent falls and injuries, and improve health and wellbeing. Appropriate adaptations may also delay or avoid the need for an older person to move into a care home or sheltered accommodation.

If you’re arranging home adaptations for an older family member or friend, try to involve them as much as possible in the planning process. Home adaptations are more likely to be a success when they are tailored to the needs and wishes of the person who will be living with them. Look for expert advice from an occupational therapist (OT) or your local council’s social services team, who can help advise on appropriate solutions.

Find your local authority: use the gov.uk website to find your local council and social services.

Adaptations around the home

There are many adaptations that can help make different parts of the home safer or more accessible. These range from inexpensive jobs, such as putting in grab rails to more extensive projects such as installing a stairlift. Some popular options are listed below – these are explained in more detail in separate articles.

  • Bathroom adaptations: a bathroom can be transformed with the right adaptations. Depending on your needs, you might install grab rails, a bath lift, or a walk-in bath or shower.
  • Grab rails: rails provide extra confidence when negotiating steps or stairs or when changing position, such as when getting in and out bed.
  • Ramps: either permanent or portable, ramps can help those with mobility issues to get in and out of the house, or move from one part of the home to another.
  • Stairlifts: although a major investment, a stairlift can be the ideal solution for someone with limited mobility who wants to continue living independently in a home with stairs.

In addition to adaptations around the home, there are also a range of aids and gadgets available to help with independent living – from adapted kitchen appliances to assistive technology to keep you safe.

Financial support for home adaptations

Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to get help with the cost of home adaptations. Local authorities in different parts of the UK operate a variety of schemes to help those who are disabled or have limited mobility to continue living at home.

The first step is always to request a free needs assessment from your local authority. During the assessment an occupational therapist will visit your home to see what alterations might help you to continue living there independently. This will enable them to gauge your needs and decide on what level of support you are entitled to.

What local authority funding is available?

Following an assessment, you will be given a care plan that explains the recommendations about the adaptations and other support you need. If the care plan says you need professional care as well as home adaptations, you will have the option of having a full financial assessment

If the care plan recommends only home adaptations, you will have the opportunity to apply for funding depending on the cost of the adaptations. Minor and major adaptations are funded in different ways by local authorities.

Minor adaptations

If you live in England and the recommended adaptations cost less than £1,000, social services often provide and fit these free of charge. However, if you’ve been allocated a personal budget to manage your own care, adaptations might be funded out of this.

In Northern Ireland and Scotland, local authorities might charge for minor adaptations.

In Wales, local authorities might charge for minor adaptations, but any charges must be ‘reasonable’ and have regard to your ability to pay. For small-scale adaptations, you may be able to apply for funding under the Rapid Response Adaptation Programme, which is administered by the charity Care & Repair Cymru. You must be referred for this by a health or social care professional. The scheme can also help fund essential adaptations if you are coming out of hospital.

Major adaptations

If the needs assessment recommends major adaptations (costing more than £1,000), you can apply for a grant from your local council to help with costs – read more below.

Local authority grants

All local authorities in the UK offer grants to help people with eligible needs make necessary modifications to their homes. The grants have slightly different rules (and names) in each part of the UK.

  • In England and Wales: you can apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) of up to £30,000 (England) or £36,000 (Wales).
  • In Northern Ireland: Home Repair Assistance Grants up to £25,000 are available.
  • In Scotland: a similar Scheme of Assistance operates.

Read more about the Disabled Facilities Grant and other schemes, including information on how to apply.

Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs)

If you need more advice or support for home adaptations, it's a good idea to contact your local Home Improvement Agency (HIA). 

These are small, not-for-profit organisations funded by local and central government. They provide information and support to help older, disabled and vulnerable people live well at home. They can help with planning and arranging home improvements, and with applications for government grants.

A HIA’s advice and first visit are free. If you decide to accept further HIA help, most agencies subsequently charge a fee. If you’re eligible for a local authority grant that could be used to pay the HIA’s fee.

HIAs or equivalent agencies can be found all over the UK:

Find a reputable trader with Which? Trusted Traders

When you’re planning any home adaptations, it’s important to get the work completed by someone trustworthy. Which? Trusted Traders endorses local tradespeople, taking the hassle out of finding the right firm. This includes a range of companies that specialise in home adaptations for people with mobility needs. Search for `Disability and mobility’ providers in your area on the website.

Find a reputable trader with Which? Trusted Traders

Self-funding home adaptations

Most local authority funding for home adaptations is means-tested. If you have substantial income or savings, you may have to cover most of the costs yourself. If you don’t qualify for assistance, here are some options that might help with paying the bills.

Financial help from family

Family members might be able to contribute towards the cost of home adaptations. This could be in the form of a loan or a gift.

If a relative is thinking about gifting you a sum of money to cover the cost of home adaptations, they should seek legal and/or financial advice first as there could be tax implications. Our guide to gifting money and assets explains the basics.

Personal loan

An unsecured personal loan could allow you to borrow the cash you need for adaptations. Lenders offer a lump sum over a fixed period of time: £5,000 over three years for example. An unsecured personal loan is usually cheaper than borrowing on a credit card.

To find out more, read the Which? guide to personal loans.

Benefits and allowances

Benefits can add to your income, helping you finance minor adaptations. Some benefits such as Attendance Allowance aren't means tested, so it doesn’t matter what your financial situation is.

If you’re unsure which benefits you might be entitled to, try using an online benefits calculator, such as Turn2us.

Equity release

If you own your home, you might be able to use an equity release scheme to ‘unlock’ cash from the value of your property. Always take advice from a qualified independent financial adviser before entering into an equity release arrangement.

Read our information about equity release to find out more.

Charitable grants

Some charitable organisations offer grants to people in need. Most charities will only provide help to those who can't get financial support elsewhere, so you must have exhausted all other possibilities. Most charitable grants have specific eligibility criteria. For example, it might only be available to you if you have very low income or specific illnesses or disabilities.

Some charities or benevolent societies, such as The Charity for Civil Servants or The Soldiers’ Charity, are associated with particular companies or professions. If you or your partner worked in a particular trade or profession, it’s worth checking to see if there is a related charity or benevolent fund that might be able to provide help.

Disability charities, such as Scope, may be able to advise on the availability of local grants that could help with home adaptations. And Turn2us allows you to search for charitable grants by postcode.