Housing and technology fund

The Department of Health has announced a new ‘Housing and Technology Fund’. Local authorities, working with their local partners, can apply for funds from a capital pot of up to £25 million for housing and technology to help drive sustainable housing solutions for people with learning disability in their area.

It may be of particular interest to Home Improvement Agencies as one of its intentions is to “utilise adaptations to existing accommodation using new technologies and other individualised solutions to enable people to remain living independently.”

For someone with a learning disability looking to move back into the community there are 4 main options:

  1. move in with friends or family, with necessary adaptations completed before the person moves.
  2. find a rental property (social or private) and carry out the necessary adaptations before the person moves;
  3. find a shared living property – could be a room in an existing house share, or a property suitable for conversion; or
  4. find a new purpose built supported living scheme - usually 12 to 16 self-contained apartments in a block.

In theory it’s great that there’s a range of options which should promote choice; but in practice it can mean just the opposite. For any of these options to work, different local authorities / departments and organisations need to work together; not just agreeing on the intended option but working to the same timescales and deadlines. For instance, it’s not unusual for social workers and housing officers to disagree about the suitability of a potential tenancy, which means that it’s too late to carry out adaptations before void charges kick in and there’s another disagreement about who picks up those costs. That’s before you get into the intention to live there for five years or not for DFG eligibility. The whole move can quickly become too difficult and falls through.

This could be an opportunity for HIAs to use their casework skills to help people negotiate this maze and secure successful moves, particularly when you consider the technical support also on offer to make adaptations; which is where this new fund could be really helpful.

A good place to start is the “Life Begins at Home” resource pack from Learning Disability England. It outlines the types of adaptation that might be appropriate and features a great set of fact sheets from Croydon NHS. But there are also exciting developments with assistive technology, which has been built into supported living schemes but could also be retrofitted into an existing house. Like blinds that open and close automatically, regulating “day” and “night” hours during a 24-hour period with lighting that shifts colour and intensity, and ceiling-mounted speakers that pipe in music when it’s “getting-up time”. For someone with challenging behaviours this can significantly reduce care costs.

We’ll be doing more work around learning disability, but if you would like a discussion about potential bids to this new form, please get in touch and we’ll set something up.