Home Improvement Agency
Handyperson services provide low-level, low-cost interventions that are considered extremely helpful if not vital by service users, but also contribute to a number of strategic objectives around keeping vulnerable people safe and independent in their own home, and can be used to facilitate re-ablement and hospital discharge. The best handyperson services can identify other issues in the client’s life, or home environment, which may be having a detrimental impact on their quality of life, safety or health. Early identification of such issues can significantly impact on the likelihood of such a client entering a crisis situation at a later date. As such handyperson services contribute to the wider prevention agenda.
TrustMark is the ONLY safe trader scheme with government-backed quality standards. This means that it operates at the forefront of consumer protection. So if you’re looking to attract more paying customers to your handyperson service, TrustMark is the way to go.
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So if you want to boost your business and prove your credibility, Quality Mark and TrustMark will help you achieve your objectives.
TrustMark is changing
The below pack explains the reasons and motivation for the changes at TrustMark, and how they will benefit Registered Businesses and their customers. The pack also includes practical details regarding the brand update and transition process, van stickers and information on how to access further electronic brand assets.
To register for Trustmark or for more information on TrustMark, please contact Roy McNally on email@example.com
There are many different models of Handyperson Service in existence around the country, each developing from local needs and gaps in existing services plus available resources, both in terms of funding, and the experience and expertise of local providers.
In our annual HIA Awards we have a category specifically for Handyperson Services; such is the importance that we attach to them. Each year we receive a diverse range of applications.
Here are a few from 2017 including the winners – Revival HIA covering the Stoke-on-Trent area, and the two commended entries from Middlesborough Staying Put, and West Norfolk Care & Repair.
Revival HIA – Handyperson Service
Through regular liaison and the work of their in-house Business Development Team, Revival have built close relationships with their local commissioners in health, social care, housing, and the police, ensuring they understand the local priorities, and develop flexible and responsive service offerings meeting commissioner/customer needs and able to manage increasing levels of complexity. As well as providing a small repairs and maintenance service, they also offer rapid response ability (including weekend cover) to ease bed-blocking in local hospitals as an integrated part of the hospital’s Discharge Team; deliver annual winter warmth checks and measures to older households; and target hardening measures for those at risk of crime, and also specialist measures for victims of domestic violence.
The service has seen a 4.5% growth in business over the last twelve months and manages demand by having a core team who work flexibly including weekends and overtime, as well as agency staff to cover peak periods. They have stream-lined systems that enable cases to be tracked and monitored, and such is their reputation locally that they are currently exploring the feasibility of a local subscription-based commercial model.
Revival put any potential service development opportunity through a formal business appraisal process. They invest in their staff through regular training. Each Handyperson is a trained Trusted Assessor for minor adaptations, and is trained to assess the client’s home for other hazards/issues and to onward refer for other help and support.
Middlesborough Staying Put Handyperson Service
An in-house agency, Middlesborough Staying Put is at the heart of many services delivered to local vulnerable householders. As well as providing a range of HP type services, the team has also added a twist to the support provided to those being helped to transfer home from hospital by providing a shopping service as part of helping the clients to settle back into their home after a period away. They also provide a range of Assistive Technology for clients, both prior to discharge, but also as part of their core offer. Timeliness is assured by the HP service working with a hospital caseworker carrying out assessments whilst the patient is still in hospital, allowing works to be completed prior to discharge thereby facilitating ‘discharge to assess’ for longer term measures such as major adaptations or repairs.
The team is part of the social care department of the Council and is therefore seen as a 'person-centred' service, not a ‘property’ or asset management function, an important difference. Though an integral part of the local authority, the team delivers commercial services to local social landlords, further contributing towards business costs and the overall efficiency of the unit.
West Norfolk Care & Repair – Handyperson Service
In contrast to Stoke (covered by Revival), and Middlesborough, West Norfolk is a mainly rural area. The number of older people living in the area also exceeds the national average by 8%. Partly in response, the team developed a Dementia Friendly Home Scheme and an ‘Ask Lilly’ information and advice service. Insight gained in developing those services allowed the team to demonstrate the importance of their support to hospital in-patients and health colleagues. As well as the many HP referrals and jobs, including many for assistive technology, there have been a regular number of requests for major adaptations and repairs.
The clear recognition of the value of the service by the partners in the Better Care Fund to the prevention agenda has been followed by increasing amounts of funding and support. As well as being trained Trusted Assessors, member of the team are Dementia Friends, and some are Dementia Champions, are RoSPA trained, and have received further training in recognising and handling hoarding behaviour.
As with the other award winners the West Norfolk Team are person-centred and don’t allow the fact that they are delivering outcomes orientated around the physical home, its conditions and the immediate environs distract them from the fact that there is a vulnerable person on the receiving end of what they do and how they do it, and that as well as delivering savings to the public purse, they are providing dignity and increased well-being to many local residents.
For more information, please contact Roy McNally on firstname.lastname@example.org
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:
The fully revised Adaptations Without Delay was published in 2019.
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.
Policies and Procedures
Operational policies and procedures
Handyperson services need to develop a range of policies and procedures which ensure fair access to services, and then provide clients with accessible information about these policies. The information should cover areas such as:
- description of service
- waiting times and priority given to different jobs
- client rights and responsibilities
- charging structures
- how to apply for the service
- details of how service quality is assured; and
- customer satisfaction and complaints procedures.
Workforce policies and procedures
Providers of handyperson services need:
- recruitment and retention policies to ensure access to suitably qualified and experienced labour; and
- clear policies and procedures relating to client hospitality, accepting gifts, bequests, handling clients’ money (for example, when purchasing materials as part of a job).
Health and Safety
Adequate provision for health and safety is a cornerstone of a handyperson service, and will include:
- risk assessments of staff functions and individual roles, and risk assessments of premises
- regular checks carried out on vehicles, tools and equipment
- lone worker procedures, for example, contact arrangements for technicians to use to notify colleagues that they have safely completed their work at a client’s home
- safe working practices, such as clean and tidy working, and clearing up after work is completed; and
- adequate appropriate storage for material and equipment, minor adaptations kit to ensure they are not damaged or that they do not present a hazard when being collected from storage.
Equality and Diversity
All services need to operate policies to encourage equality of opportunity both in terms of recruitment into the service and how the service is delivered to all clients, regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity, sexuality or any other factor which might create an unjustifiable bias. The need for services to acknowledge and respect their clients’ values and customs, so essential when providing a service in the home environment, is particularly important.
Appropriate cultural awareness training may be offered to ensure that thoughtless actions or words do not cause unnecessary offence.
In addition, training which confronts issues around ageism and disability, including mental health and learning disabilities, will be valuable to a group of workers who need to communicate effectively with a wide range of clients, gaining their trust and respect.
Core skills and Experience
The job of handyperson appeals to a lot of former tradespeople and semi-retired workers who may be attracted by the regular, secure income, or the opportunity to work with older clients with whom they have much in common.
A handyperson should understand the needs of older clients and have good interpersonal skills. The ability to organise workloads, maintain supplies of materials and equipment, good record-keeping and to be part of a small team are all key requirements for a handyperson and should be set out in their person specification.
Core competencies – assessing for and carrying out measures in the home
A handyperson would normally undergo training to enable them to assess the need for a variety of measures in a client’s home, but previous experience gained in the fields of health and safety, falls and accident prevention, home security, fire safety, or health work such as nursing and personal care would give them a clear advantage.
The competency to carry out building work is a basic starting requirement for a handyperson – few if any agencies would expect to take on staff who lacked this basic ability, and is usually demonstrated by a proven track-record of time served in a recognised trade, and by certifications or qualifications gained from various bodies such as City & Guilds.
Specialist areas – electrical work, gas
The approach for many services is to have clear boundaries on types of service offered by their handypersons. These boundaries preclude work which requires specialist regulation, certification or qualifications. A number of services employ handypersons who may have acquired qualifications while in previous employment, such as Gas Safe registration, or self-certification schemes for electrical contractors operated by NICEIC or the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA). Often, a specialist contractor can be employed through the handyperson service to certify work carried out by a handyperson or to carry out jobs which are beyond the scope of the service.
Easing the burden on occupational therapists – the trusted technician
Handypersons can undergo training to become trusted technicians/assessors, which means that they are able to assess for as well as fit a number of minor adaptations and assistive technology equipment.
Trigger identification – developing an awareness of what other services might be required by the client
The handyperson should be trained to recognise indicators of other health or lifestyle problems and know how to deal with these concerns, usually by means of onwards referral. These indicators include:
- poor standards of personal or household hygiene
- signs of malnutrition
- confusion and irrational behaviour
- difficulty with communication and comprehension
- large quantities of unopened post
- neglected pets
- hoarding of possessions; and
- burn marks on furniture (smokers).