Foundations Monthly Webinar, 21 June 2022
Run a Handyperson Service
This guide is aimed at operational managers of Handyperson Services in England. It provides a range of practical information and resources to help you manage an efficient and effective service.
As with all our guides, if you have any suggestions on how we could improve or expand the content for the benefit of others across the country then please get in touch.
What is a handyperson service?
If you look in a dictionary, a handyperson is “a person skilled at a wide range of odd-jobs, typically around the home.”
But there is another breed of handyperson. Those commissioned by the public sector aren’t just about delivering “odd-jobs”. They are a “Handyperson Service”. They still turn up in a van and do jobs around the home, but they do much more besides.
Handyperson Services have been around in one guise or another for a long time, funded as a public service for more than 25 years. Each service is individually commissioned and developed to meet local needs, but they all have 3 things in common:
1. The foot in the door
A Handyperson Service is often the first ‘public service’ that a vulnerable householder will call. Because they are essentially a tradesperson, there is not the stigma or fear that is sometimes associated with a call to social services, for example. This also means that a handyperson may often gain confidence and trust where other professionals may not.In addition to delivering the practical tasks they’ve been asked to do a handyperson will have the soft-skills needed to delve a little deeper into the customer’s situation, keeping their eyes and ears open to other issues that could be affecting the customer (even if they have not identified such a need themselves). This could be insulation measures for a cold home, a need for home adaptations or a referral for a welfare benefits check. The solutions may be provided by a Home Improvement Agency or through an onward referral to a trusted local partner.
2. Jobs that make the home safer
Essentially a handyperson is a skilled and trusted tradesperson visiting the house to ‘fit’ things. But a Handyperson Service often fits things that make the home safer too – like security fittings or grabrails. They’re increasingly used to aid timely discharge from hospital and carry out falls prevention work.
Which jobs do make the home safer though? For example, fitting a grab-rail is a small practical task regularly carried out by a Handyperson Services that clearly helps to make a home safer. This would be opposed to assembling some flat-pack furniture, as whilst this is clearly practical work, its purpose is not focussed on safety. However, the two types of job described above are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, there could be a situation whereby the assembly of a flat-pack dining suite, could be considered a means of keeping a person safe, especially if their current dining arrangements mean eating hot food from their lap on a sofa in front of the TV!
Another example could include gardening. A path clearance would facilitate safe access in and out of the home, thereby adding safety, whereas weeding a flowerbed may not. However, could it not also be argued that improving the visual appearance of a person’s garden not only improves their mental well-being, but also makes them less likely to be a victim of opportunistic crime / abuse, by virtue of an unkempt garden signifying that a vulnerable person lives at the property?
3. Home Safety Check
Most Handyperson Services will carry out a short assessment during their visit –a home safety check. This will typically look at issues such as:
- Falls risks
- Security issues
- Fire safety
- Other hazards
- Items needing repair
- Social isolation
Sometimes this will highlight further jobs for the handyperson to carry out, like removing trip hazards or fitting draught excluders. In other cases, it may result in a referral for other services such as home adaptations or loft insultation. This ‘extra goodness’ does come at a cost. While an ‘odd-job’ handyperson may charge £35 to £40 per hour, Handyperson Services typically cost £55 to £60 per job when you consider staff, vehicles, tools, etc. Some Services seek to cover some of this cost through a fee (£16.57 per hour on average) with commissioners subsidising the balance. In other areas, commissioners fully fund Handyperson Services for specific vulnerable groups. For instance, Manchester Care & Repair provides one of England’s largest handyperson services, and all its services are offered to eligible customers completely free of charge.
Financing and fees
Minor Adaptations Without Delay was developed by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists as a practical guide is for housing associations involved in fitting ‘minor adaptations’ for tenants, such as stair rails.
Part 1 gives examples of good practice, identifies characteristics of best practice and sets out to dispel some of the myths that result in failure to meet the needs of older and disabled people. It includes a number of case studies involving Home Improvement Agencies and Handyperson services.
Part 2 gives technical specifications, which will be of use to handypersons and anyone else looking to fit or assess for a wide range of minor adaptations.
The guide was originally published in 2006 and includes technical specifications that handypersons will find helpful
Home safety checks
Handyperson services arguably operate in a more commercial market than traditional HIA services, and other players such as commercial building contractors offer similar services at commercial rates.
From the commissioner’s point of view, less expensive operators (commercial operators who charge a commercial rate, therefore, require little or no subsidy) might seem an attractive option.
However, they are unlikely to provide a holistic service or link up well with other services and agencies. Most public sector commissioners would also need robust assurances that private sector handyperson services were affordable to people on low incomes, accessible to those in the greatest need and that the providers were trustworthy and reliable.
HIAs have an advantage over some other potential providers of services because they are already familiar with the rigours of quality assessment as part of service reviews, including the HIA Quality Mark.
The various components of these existing quality assurance schemes provide a framework for setting standards and ensuring the quality of services in future. This section picks out some of these elements.
Speak to our Regional Advisors
Our team of Regional Advisors are at the heart of what we do – providing advice and support to Local Authorities and Home Improvement Agencies. And because we’re funded by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities our everyday support is free of charge.
Whether it’s a question about the DFG legislation, you need advice on how to commission a HIA or anything in between – we’re here to help.