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Housing: Repairs and Maintenance

Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 17 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what support her Department is providing for home improvement agencies; what the contribution is of the Supporting People budget to the work of such agencies; and what assessment she has made of the adequacy of the resources available to assist people seeking to modify their homes in order to be able to remain resident in them. (244331)

The Government recognise the importance of adequate resources being made available to provide home adaptations enabling vulnerable people to remain living comfortably and safely in their homes. We have made additional funding of over £30 million available from 2009 which will go to support local agencies, such as home improvement agencies (HIAs), to help older people with minor repairs and adaptations. This is one of a number of initiatives for the promotion and development of HIAs and better home repairs and adaptations services included in ‘Lifetime Homes, Lifetime Neighbourhoods—A National Strategy for Housing in an Ageing Society’, published earlier this year, addressing the housing and related service needs of older people.

My Department has provided new funding for a three-year contract for a national body for HIAs from September 2008 for development of the HIA sector. We have also sponsored a future home improvement agency project, the findings of which were published in September. This project aims to set out a broad agenda for the evolution of the HIA sector to its next level. As a way of encouraging and developing HIAs and their work, it highlights what is already being done well by HIAs and suggests models for wider application.

The Government also recognise the importance of the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) programme in enabling people to live as comfortably and independently as possible in their homes, which is why funding in this area has increased significantly. Funding since 1997 has more than doubled from £57 million to £146 million in 2008. The budget will rise by a further £10 million in the next two years increasing to £166 million by 2010, an increase of over 30 per cent. However, the DFG budget should not be seen as the sole source of funding for adaptations, and local authorities are expected to also contribute towards these costs as they have always done.

In addition, the Government's Supporting People (SP) programme allows local authorities to fund handy person schemes for their local area if an authority wishes to do so. In 2006-07 there was a local authority spend on HIAs through SP funding of over £15.413 million. The SP 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.