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Study outlines importance of ‘unsung heroes’ in independent living

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Handyperson Services are playing a pivotal role as the ‘eyes and ears’ of communities in keeping vulnerable people safe and healthy in their own homes, according to a new report.

However, the report found that the ‘unsung heroes’ are facing multiple challenges in the shape of a complex commissioning environment and the growth of the gig economy.

Handyperson Services are commissioned by councils to carry out a wide range of tasks, from ‘odd jobs’ such as repairs to home safety checks from removing trip hazards to completing accessibility adaptations.

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Over the last decade they have become increasingly involved in helping people to access assistive technology and telecare.

The study, published by Foundations, shows:

•               54% of local authorities either provide or commission handyperson services – delivered by in-house or independent not-for-profit home improvement agencies.

•               All labour – and some materials – is free of charge in 41% of services (compared with 34% in 2011).

•               45% provide services that aid timely discharge from hospital, for example by ensuring the person’s home is safe and fully equipped for them to return to.

However, the report finds that such a vast range of interventions is rarely covered by one local commissioner.

It states that Handyperson Services find themselves delivering different contracts with varying terms and conditions that make it difficult to play the very role they are best at – carrying out a variety of jobs at the same time.

Paul Smith, director of Foundations, says: “In many ways, handyperson services are our unsung heroes. For more than a quarter of a century they have been at the forefront of keeping people safe and helping them to access a wide range of support. They play a vital role in prevention and early intervention, often acting as trusted eyes and ears in the community.

Adding: “But in a fast-changing environment – in particular, the growth of the gig economy – the challenge now is to ensure handyperson services remain at the forefront and are fully embedded in the preventative agenda through strategic commissioning.”

The report concludes that the inclusion of Disabled Facilities Grant – which is used to help people live independently, for example by paying for adaptations – in the Better Care Fund means there is a mechanism to improve the commissioning and targeting of Handyperson Services.

Tags : Independent Living
Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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