Handyman service for Lancashire's elderly and disabled to shut

Eligible residents will still be able to get minor adaptations carried out in their homes
Eligible residents will still be able to get minor adaptations carried out in their homes

An odd job service and advice scheme designed to help keep people independent in their own homes will come to an end next year.

Lancashire County Council’s home improvement service provides minor housing repairs for the disabled, anybody with a long-term health condition and residents at risk of being admitted to hospital or care. The labour for the jobs comes free of charge, with residents paying only for materials.

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The service also arranges quotes for more significant work and offers guidance on applying for welfare entitlements and grants for upgrades in the home.

A separate home adaptation service, which has recently been delivered under the same umbrella, will continue. The authority is statutorily required to provide assistance features such as additional banister rails and ramps, up to a maximum value of £1,000 – a service which cost the authority more than £1m last year.

Cabinet members agreed to end the broader scheme, which will save County Hall £880,000 per year.

Conservative council leader Geoff Driver said the service should be delivered differently.

“One of our stated objectives is to help people live well in their own homes and this service undoubtedly helps along those lines – however, the way it is set up at the present time is not the most efficient, so we need to make sure we get the best service and the best value.

“There’s very little in the [public consultation responses] that persuade us that we’re wrong in our perception that it could be done more effectively,” County Cllr Driver said.

However, papers presented to cabinet revealed that the financial viability of home improvement agencies, which deliver the complete service, could be threatened by the move. That could put a question mark over whether there would be sufficient capacity to deliver the continuing minor adaptations scheme, which will now be advertised as a standalone contract.

The meeting heard that disabled facilities grants awarded to district councils for home adaptations could bridge some of the gap.

But Labour opposition group leader Azhar Ali described the change as a “savage cut”.

“There are a lot of districts that have got huge waits for disabled facilities grants, because of the complexities of people’s needs. In some [areas], getting a stairlift is difficult.

“The people who struggle – the sick and the elderly – will face the brunt of these cuts.

“It’s a shame on the government and a shame on this authority,” County Cllr Ali said.

Sixty percent of people responding to a public consultation on the issue said necessary work in their home would not be done if the home improvement service did not exist.

Last year, the service carried out more than 6,600 handy person jobs – including nailing down carpet and securing doors. More than 2,600 people were helped with grant funding and welfare advice.

The county council will use part of a one-off £500,000 investment to investigate “new approaches” to delivering the service.