09 Jun 2022

Adapting for the future

The right home, whether designed or adapted to meet specific needs, can support good mental and physical health and help people remain independent for longer. But a home that isn’t suitable can become a prison. Stairs at the front door can create a barrier to the community. A lack of space for a wheelchair can minimise movement, and worrying about tripping or falling can undermine confidence and stop people from doing things for themselves.

We know that simple equipment or adaptations such as ramps and grab rails can prevent costly hospital admissions or a move to residential care. Preventative measures can save money in the long term and provide much better outcomes for individuals. So why are so many people still waiting for a home that meets their needs?

The Adaptations Working Group (AWG) was convened by the Scottish Government in 2011 and published recommendations in 2012 highlighting the complexity of the existing system for getting an adaptation. Funding streams differ depending on housing tenure, and people might not always know where to seek advice and information. While some AWG recommendations have been actioned - a pilot scheme called Adapting for Change ran in five areas from 2014 to 2017 - there is still a lot of work to do to ensure that people can access adaptations when needed, regardless of their housing tenure.

Ten years from the AWG recommendations, the proportion of people who report needing an adaptation to make it easier to go about daily activities has only reduced by one per cent since this measure was first recorded in the Scottish Household Survey in 2015. In 2020, nine per cent of households, a quarter of a million, reported needing an adaptation.

Our work on housing and dementia has shown that tenure can be a barrier to accessing advice, information and support with housing. People in the PRS and homeowners might not know where to go for help, and more must be done to reinforce private landlords’ legal obligations to allow adaptations.  

Lack of funding can also be a barrier to getting an adaptation or increase the waiting time. The Scottish Government budget for housing association adaptations had been frozen at £10 million for several years before a slight increase to £11 million in 2021 despite the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) identifying an annual shortfall of £7 million. The impact of the pandemic has also slowed down the installation of adaptations through local authorities, with 2021 housing statistics indicating a 42 per cent drop in the scheme of assistance grants paid to homeowners and a reduction of £7 million paid out in disabled adaptation grants. This backlog needs to be addressed urgently.

With this in mind, the Scottish Government consultation on new guidance for procuring community equipment and adaptations is welcome. The guidance aims to “…deliver a more equitable and accessible approach to the provision of equipment and adaptations.”

However, guidance alone will not be enough to ensure that households across Scotland can access to equipment and adaptations they need to live well and independently, regardless of whether they own or rent their home. That’s why our response to the consultation called for increased resources to deliver adaptations. We need to ensure that adequate funding is provided for those who need it and that everyone can easily access advice and information to help them make the right housing decisions now and in the future.

Written by Ashley Campbell

Ashley is the policy and pactice manager at CIH Scotland.