We published “Lifetime Homes, Lifetime Neighbourhoods—A National Strategy for Housing in an Ageing Society” earlier this year, which addresses the housing and related service needs of older people. This includes initiatives for the promotion and development of better home repairs and adaptations services. Additional funding of over £30 million from 2009 will go to support local agencies, such as home improvement agencies, to help older people with minor repairs and adaptations.
£10.2 billion has been allocated by my Department for 2008-11 for regional housing capital programmes, including those which address the condition of private sector housing stock. Of this, almost £2 billion is for improvements and regeneration to the existing stock (both local authority owned and private sector). We have issued guidance to regional assemblies which asks them to continue to prioritise those most in need with the expectation that packages of assistance including grants, loans, and equity release schemes are made available to individual homeowners.
Under the Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England and Wales) Order 2002 (the RRO) local authorities have a great deal of flexibility and freedom in providing discretionary assistance for repairs and adaptations. It is also for the local authority to decide the circumstances in which to give discretionary assistance, what form that assistance may take (e.g. grants, loans, equity release schemes etc.) and what, if any, conditions to attach.
Central Government do not prescribe the exact manner in which these powers are used but we expect local authorities to offer packages of assistance to householders, taking into account local priorities, the individual circumstances of the applicant and the resources available to the local authority, we have said that we expect support to continue to go to those most in need.
In addition, the Government’s Supporting People programme allows local authorities to fund handy person schemes for their local area if an authority wishes to do so. The Supporting People ring-fenced grant conditions will be removed from 2009-10 to enable Local Authorities to better meet the needs of vulnerable clients, including older people, by the use of more flexible innovative services.