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Winners of first National Healthy Housing Awards unveiled

Inspirational organisations and individuals have been honoured at the inaugural National Healthy Housing Awards.

Organised by Foundations, the national body for home improvement agencies (HIAs), the new awards celebrate work across the country by local authorities, social landlords and charitable organisations to support vulnerable people to live independently.

Winners received their awards at a ceremony at Central Hall, Westminster sponsored by wet room and adapted bathroom specialist PROCare.

Healthy Housing Hub (HHH) at Derby City Council scooped the Home Improvement Agency (HIA) of the Year title. Strong partnerships with health, care and community partners have led to a highly effective service shaped around a ‘better care’ approach that tackles unsuitable living conditions, makes the most of available resources, focuses on early help and prevention and reduces demand in the NHS and social care. HHH is held up as an example of best practice nationally and demonstrates what can be achieved when a wide range of public sector practitioners work together to reach vulnerable individuals who might otherwise “fall through the net”.

Brent Council’s Private Housing Services won DFG Adaptations Service of the Year, sponsored by Altro. The Council has broadened its reach by using discretionary powers under the Regulatory Reform Order to provide needs-based support to all vulnerable residents while also widening the services it offers. Earlier this year, a survey showed 95% of clients were either very satisfied or satisfied with the service provided and last year the team delivered its highest number of DFG adaptations to date.

Described by colleagues as “a team player who goes over and above what would normally be expected”, Georgina Smith has scooped the Caseworker of the Year title. Based at Lancaster HIA, run by Lancaster City Council, Georgina’s achievements include successfully implementing a home safety scheme for vulnerable children.

The award for Contractor of the Year has gone Dave Wilson, a builder who has undertaken DFG work for Lancaster HIA for more than a decade. Always willing to go the extra mile, Dave “has been known to regularly work unsociable hours to work around the client’s needs”. He has even put together a goody bag (including a bag for life, with copies of warranties, instructions, a shower cap, soap and shampoo) which he leaves with each client when work is completed.

The award for Handyperson Service of the Year was presented to County Durham Handyperson Service, run by housing association Bernicia on behalf of Durham County Council and two Clinical Commissioning Groups. Over the last 10 years it has supported more than 77,710 customers and delivered over 136,000 tasks. Through targeted investment it has widened the service’s reach and by focusing on a preventative approach based on local priorities generating significant savings. For example, more than £172,400 was saved in 2018-19 via hospital discharge support that reduces unnecessary extended stays.

Bill Weston at Walsall Council has been crowned Technical Officer of the Year, sponsored by Archadia for his sector-leading work and dedication to excellence. Last year alone he oversaw the delivery of 497 major DFGs, 142 minor cases and adaptations to 13 community centres. Colleagues described him as ‘passionate, approachable and [someone who] shares his skills and knowledge across the council’.

Described as ‘a role model for OT’, Middlesbrough-based Jennifer Parten has been named Occupational Therapist of the Year, which was supported by Promoting Independence. She has produced adaptations guidance that cements the links between OT and Middlesbrough Staying Put Agency and updated the Middlesbrough Council’s professional guidance for housing adaptations, which is used regionally across local government as a best practice guide. Jennifer embodies the council’s core values of having integrity and being passionate, creative, collaborative and focused in all aspects of her work.

The Social Housing Adaptations Service of the Year award, sponsored by AKW, has been won by the Accessible Homes Team at Kirklees Council. An integrated, multidisciplinary structure ensures health, housing and social care work closely together to provide an efficient and effective service. The team has also developed a comprehensive approach to supporting people who have needs that cannot be met by adaptations alone, such as through relocation packages. During 2018-19 the Accessible Homes Team oversaw 501 large council tenant adaptations and scored a 100% customer satisfaction rating.

Blackpool Coastal Housing (BCH) won the Foundations Independent Living Trust award. With 32 Health Through Warmth Crisis Fund applications either completed or active from January, it is not difficult to see why BCH made the cut for this award. Going above and beyond for their clients and reaching numbers such as 87 interventions; which have been undertaken and committed to delivery supporting the high demand of people in need. BCH have built a strong partnership with Foundations Independent Living Trust over several years and will continue to work seamlessly together for many more years to come.

Paul Smith, Director of Foundations, said: “What so many entrants to these awards highlight is the way in which organisations and individuals are creating those vital links between health, housing and social care to develop more effective services and support. “It’s truly inspirational and our winners really are at the cutting edge of integration and the prevention-based approaches that are needed to transform the lives of vulnerable people.”

National Healthy Housing Awards

The National Healthy Housing Awards 2019 build on the success of the annual HIA Awards, which were organised by Foundations from 2001 to 2018. The new awards continue to champion the work of home improvement agencies but also celebrate a wider range of individuals and organisations across England that enable people to live independent lives.

This reflects the way services are increasingly being commissioned in more integrated and collaborative ways – all with the aim of supporting more people to remain living in their own healthy home, for example through the use of adaptations, digital technology and tailored home support.