Councils in England spent around £187m on mobility equipment last year, not including aids handed out by the NHS, but believe scrapping items is still often cheaper than recycling them.
That’s according to an investigation by the BBC which obtained a Freedom of Information Act request showing that councils issued approximately 3.5m mobility items in 2018.
However, some council bosses have argued that the high cost of recycling mobility equipment means it is sometimes more cost effective to purchase new ones.
One end-user interviewed on BBC Inside Out West said a local hospital had told him to throw his walking aid away when he tried to return it.
That was despite an ongoing national campaign by the NHS encouraging people to return mobility equipment in a bid to supposedly save cash.
Councillor Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said in the BBC interview that recycling equipment is not always ‘financially viable’.
He said: “Each council has to balance the costs of collection cleaning and reissuing devices against the costs of providing new equipment.
“It is not always financially viable to collect or recycle daily living aids, especially given the difficult financial pressures currently facing councils, with an estimated funding gap of £8bn expected by 2025.”
Last year, just over 2m daily living aids were returned in England, including equipment that could have been out on loan for a number of years.
Items include walking frames, crutches, wheelchairs, furniture raisers, grabbers and raised toilet seats.
A number of community equipment service providers have partnered with local authorities to run recycling initiatives within communities.
These schemes are designed to recover unused mobility aids and help local councils and NHS trusts to replenish their stocks.
Equipment is collected from the community by contracted companies who then clean the items and ensure they are safe to be reissued.
The service is often free for end-users but can be costly for councils.