Thousands of OAPs are denied handrails or stairlifts in their homes

Despite alterations helping to keep them independent

Number of home adaptations installed has plummeted by 5,500 since 2011

  • Lack is one reason why elderly patients can not be discharged from hospital
  • But critics say councils have cut back while still paying huge salaries

By Tamara Cohen


Thousands of elderly people are being denied vital home alterations that keep them out of hospital and help them stay independent, it emerged yesterday.

Improvements such as handrails, stairlifts and ramps can stop them being hurt in falls – but the number being installed has plummeted by 5,500 since 2011.

Figures from 250 local authorities suggest the number of applications to have them installed is unchanged, but councils say fewer are being done because of cuts.

A stairlift: Lack of home adaptations is one reason for delays in discharging elderly people from hospital once they have had treatment – known as bed blocking – which costs NHS trusts some £300 per night

However, critics claim some of the blame lies with councils that have allowed executive pay bills to soar, despite being forced to make economies elsewhere.

Labour attacked the 12 per cent fall in home adaptations as a false economy that added to the pressure on A&E departments and pushed up medical and care bills. 

The alterations – which also include downstairs bathrooms and widened doorways for wheelchairs – are means tested, with the average cost at £6,700. But installing handrails costs as little as £50.

Labour care spokesman Liz Kendall will say today that the number of home adaptations has dropped under the Coalition from 36,168 in 2010-11 to 31,871 in 2013-14. Half of councils admitted they were doing fewer, and 15 had cut back by 50 per cent. 

Lack of home adaptations is one reason for delays in discharging elderly people from hospital once they have had treatment – known as bed blocking – which costs NHS trusts some £300 per night.

Delays in leaving hospitalsare at record levels. There were more than 900,000 ‘delayed days’ in hospitals beds in the last year costing the NHS £247million – enough for 37,000 home mprovements.

‘Home adaptations are a lifeline’: Labour care spokesman Liz Kendall will say today that the number of them has dropped under the Coalition

Some 40,000 of these were down to a lack of suitable care arrangements in the patient’s own home.

Councils’ social care budgets are under pressure from the ageing population.

Around £3.5billion has been cut from local authority budgets since 2010 after communities secretary Eric Pickles promised a freeze in council tax to help hard-pressed families as the economy recovered.

But critics accuse local authorities of cutting social care budgets rather than cracking down on vast executive salaries.

Six-figure salaries cost the taxpayer £300million a year and 93 town halls increased the number of employees on more than £100,000 a year, according a report this week by the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

Miss Kendall will tell an audience in London today: ‘Home adaptations are a lifeline for older and disabled people, helping them to stay living independently in their own homes.

‘The Government’s huge cuts to local authority budgets mean councils have been forced to reduce the amount of money they spend on these vital adaptations.

‘But this is a false economy, as more older people end up going to hospital or into a care home when they don’t need to.

‘This is terrible for them and their families and is an extremely poor use of taxpayers’ money, too.’

Labour claim money could be found to increase the number of home improvements by merging health and social care budgets to prevent people staying too long in hospital.

A Department of Health spokesman said the government had increased funding for the Disabled Facilities Grant and added: ‘We expect councils to deliver their legal responsibility to fund adaptations for those who qualify for the grant.’

█ Separate figures reveal elderly people will pay an average £28,600 this year in nursing home fees. This is double the average pensioners’ income – and a shortfall of £282 a week.

The most expensive care home fees are in the south east of England where they have reached £32,760 this year, and pensioner incomes have fallen. 

In the north east the average is lowest at £24,648, according to research by Prestige Nursing + Care, based on a survey of 165 nursing homes.