Councils ‘failing on equipment assessments’


Some councils are failing to meet their legal duties to carry out proper assessments of disabled people who come to them needing aids and adaptations, according to a report launched this week.

In his annual report, Sir Richard Tilt, the social fund commissioner, says there have been “a number of cases” in which social services departments failed to carry out proper assessments of a disabled person’s needs.

Some social services departments said they did not provide help with aids such as electrically-operated, adjustable beds or chairs.

Others emphasized how “crucial” a piece of equipment was, but then referred the disabled person to the social fund, which provides grants and interest-free loans to people under short-term “exceptional” financial pressure.

Sir Richard says in his report, which was published in July but launched this week: “It is clear from the cases we see that applicants are confused about who has responsibility for assessing and meeting their needs for aids and other specialist items.

“It is unacceptable that people who are often in desperate situations and with urgent needs find themselves passed between their local authority and the Social Fund.

“Social services have the primary responsibility for provision in this area; as the appropriate experts, they are also best placed to assess someone’s needs and to decide on the most appropriate means of meeting those needs.”

He also says in his report that it is “essential” that the government provides an “appropriate increase” in the social fund grants budget so that “all high priority needs can be met consistently” across Britain.

He says the budget of £141 million for community care grants – aimed at the poorest people in society – has not increased since 2006.

During 2008/2009, his report says, the pressure on budgets “increased significantly”, which meant many areas were unable to meet all high priority needs.

This meant people were left without basic household items such as fridges or settees, despite their urgent need.

Sir Richard says the problem is “likely to get worse in the coming year”.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “Community care grants are just one part of the important support available to help people live independently in their community, for example, after leaving care.

“It’s important that people continue to get this valuable help and that’s why the Budget committed an additional £270 million to the Social Fund.”

29 October 2009