National Healthy Housing Awards 2020

The achievements of council teams, charities and inspirational frontline staff in supporting independent living have been celebrated at the National Healthy Housing Awards 2020.

This year’s awards highlight how those working to ensure homes are safe and accessible have been at the forefront of supporting vulnerable people through the pandemic.

Organised by Foundations, the Government-funded national body for home improvement agencies (HIAs), the awards – now in their second year – honour pioneering organisations and individuals who support people with disabilities and long-term conditions to live safely at home.

Judges assessed entries from all over England across seven categories.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, this year’s winners were announced at a virtual ceremony with the awards sponsored by wet room and adapted bathroom specialist PROCare.

Handyperson Service of the Year

Having been runner up in 2019, Middlesbrough Staying Put Agency went one better this year by taking the title of Handyperson Service of the Year.

Part of Middlesbrough Council, the HIA has grown its handyperson service over the last seven years and during 2019-20 completed 2,200-repairs and adaptations and 460 home improvements while also supporting more than 800 telecare customers. In recent months, staff and volunteers have been at the vanguard of the local Covid-19 response – facilitating safe hospital discharge amid rising demand and distributing PPE and food parcels.

Home Improvement Agency of the Year

Care & Repair Leeds has been crowned Home Improvement Agency of the Year for the way in which its comprehensive Home Plus service – delivered on behalf of Leeds City Council – has supported more than 8,500 people over the last two years. As well as accelerating the delivery of adaptations, the HIA has reached out to vulnerable people during the pandemic through its RuOK call service. Some 98% of clients say they feel safer at home and are able to live independently for longer.

Caseworker of the Year

Consistently ‘going the extra mile’ for clients – including life-saving advice that ensured an 80-year-old woman was alerted to carbon monoxide fumes – saw Bob Stephenson of Age UK Notts win Caseworker of the Year. One colleague commented that Bob is not only “knowledgeable, an expert in his field, but he can put vulnerable clients at ease and is really patient, compassionate and caring. I feel I have been learning from the best, he’s a great mentor”.

Contractor of the Year

Longman Developments in Egham, Surrey won Contractor of the Year for the conscientious way in which the firm approaches adaptations. Led by George Longman, the company has completed numerous disabled facility grant (DFG) projects. Nominating Longman Developments for the awards, architect Kathryn Thomas of Archadia said: “They stand out because they understand the concerns people have coming into a job and try make the clients as comfortable as possible throughout… They are always aware of the client’s ability and needs and adapt their working to suit the individual.”

Home Adaptation Service of the Year

Oxford City Council Home Improvement Agency has scooped the title of Home Adaptation Service of the Year for its proactive approach to tackling housing issues in order to assist hospital discharge. Working closely with health partners, the HIA has improved the way simple measures that prevent falls at home are identified and implemented. Far more people are now being reached thanks to a comprehensive marketing campaign targeted at vulnerable people and more than 30,000 doctors, nurses and other health professionals.

Occupational Therapist of the Year

Lorraine Flory has been crowned Occupational Therapist of the Year in recognition of her “holistic approach” that’s “put mental health, loneliness prevention and community resources at the forefront of local provision”. Based at Independent Living in Staffordshire, part of Millbrook Healthcare, she works across six local authority areas in the county, supporting colleagues’ development and ultimately helping clients get “truly personalised care”.

Social Housing Adaptations Service of the Year

The title of Social Housing Adaptations Service of the Year has gone to Rochdale Home Improvement Agency for the way it has engaged social landlords and helped them to deliver ‘pioneering solutions’. Part of Rochdale Council, the HIA has worked closely with landlords to help them understand the disabled facility grant (DFG) process and use funding flexibly in order to support tenants. Success stories include a family with three wheelchair-dependent children who moved into a new home that had been adapted to their needs using DFG money.

Technical Officer of the Year

“His customer focused approach has made many people’s lives immeasurably better. He is the standard that everyone else tries to achieve.”

With those words, Richard Conway, housing standards manager at Dorset Council, sums up why Paul Foot has been named Technical Officer of the Year. Through his role at Dorset Accessible Homes Service, part of Millbrook Healthcare, Paul has worked tirelessly to promote independent living by understanding what each client’s strengths are and finding solutions that build on those attributes.

Paul Smith, director of Foundations, said: “From running hospital discharge services to carrying out vital adaptations, this year’s winners highlight the way in which organisations continue to innovate and strive for improvement in partnership with colleagues across health, housing and social care.

“But what is also striking is the way in which they have proved themselves ideally equipped to help shield some of the most vulnerable people in society from the effects of the pandemic.”

National Healthy Housing Awards

The National Healthy Housing Awards build on the success of the annual HIA Awards, which were organised by Foundations from 2001 to 2018. The new awards, launched in 2019, 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.