9 hours in the future - Part 1

When I took on my role with Foundations last summer I realised that there would be a fair amount of travel involved. What I never imagined was being invited out to Australia to give the keynote address at their Home Modifications Conference. 

So in the week when the UK had April snow showers I spent six days in sunny Sydney and Canberra learning about the differences and great similarities between how our two countries and how we approach housing for older people and people with disabilities.

I arrived in Sydney on the Sunday evening which gave me little over a day to acclimatise and do some sight seeing. The following day was the Anzac Day bank holiday with processions of service men and women through the streets from the crack of dawn, including an array of marching bands. Sydney is a wonderful city; very cosmopolitan with a mixture of the very familiar with the unusual that reminds you that you are in a foreign land. I visited the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House of course, but would also recommend Darling Harbour with its cafes, restaurants and shops against a Manhattanesque skyline.

On Tuesday I visited the offices of Home Modifications Australia (MOD.A) - their equivalent of Foundations. What became apparent almost immediately was that despite the use of different words and acronyms, we have much in common.

In Australia the term 'modification' is used where we would typically say 'adaptation' - and I think they may have the better word. To me a 'modification' or 'home mod' is an improvement to make your home suit your individual needs and work better for you; whereas as 'adaptation' is more about trying to make the most of something that doesn't work due to your deficiency. Semantics I know, but I think 'home mods' sounds so much more proactive and personalised.

The MOD.A Conference is being held to coincide with a major change in the way care and support, including home mods, are being funded. Put simply, the Australian Government has introduced a new National Insurance levy to pay for care. Most of the funding will go towards domiciliary care and be paid in a similar way to a direct payment or personal budget here - with the recipient given significant discretion in how they spend the money including home mods and assistive technology.

Exactly how this will work in practice is still being decided, but it will be interesting to follow as the debate on the funding of social care and its integration with health continues in the UK.

In Part 2 I'll share some of the magic I learned during the conference, including a great new app to advise on making homes more dementia friendly, some ground-breaking research on the value of adaptations for informal carers and how much it costs to install a level access shower in Australia.