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Equipment - and how to get it

From a small piece of kit to a thorough renovation of your home, there is a lot of equipment to help you in your caring role.

Different types of equipment or changes to your home could help make your home safer, your life easier and provide independence for the person you are looking after.

Before purchasing any equipment it’s a good idea to have an assessment with an occupational therapist who will offer an independent opinion and advice on what might be suitable to meet your needs and those of the person you look after. Ask your GP to refer you.

You can also contact your local council to get an occupational therapist assessment – ask for the Adult Social Care Team if you are caring for an adult or the Children and Families Team if you are caring for a child. You can also be referred to an occupational therapist following a community care assessment.


Equipment and changes to your home

Visit our Equipment and technology section for a list of room by room ideas including items of equipment (such as a raised toilet seat), smaller adaptations (such as fitting grab rails), and larger adaptations (such as installing a wet room).

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Accessing equipment

You can either buy your own equipment or obtain it through the NHS or your local council.

There are many suppliers selling equipment to assist disabled people to live independently. Like anything else you buy, it is wise to be careful before you spend money. Always ask to use the equipment on a trial basis if possible before you buy. If unsure then seek other opinions.

The Disability Living Foundation provide free, impartial advice about all types of disability equipment and mobility products. Ricability is an independent consumer research charity reporting on various types of products.

Carers UK has a partnership with social business Unforgettable, which was founded by a carer and aims to create a vibrant marketplace for products and services designed to help people to cope better with dementia.

Help from the NHS or council

Some equipment is provided by the local authority social work department, whereas other types are provided by the NHS. This will depend on the type of equipment and whether it is considered to be healthcare equipment or equipment to help with daily living.

A social worker or an occupational therapist can assess the needs of the person you look after to consider what equipment would best help them. This usually happens as part of the assessment process for the person you look after. A need for equipment may also be triggered by a carer’s assessment.

Equipment will be provided free of charge. Minor adaptations costing £1,000 or less (which includes the cost of buying and fitting the adaptation) are also provided free of charge. Councils can make a charge for minor adaptations that cost more than £1,000.

Larger, more expensive items of equipment may be classed as adaptations and will be the responsibility of the housing department through Disabled Facilities Grants (see below).

Equipment for employment

If a disabled person needs equipment to help them in paid work, the “Access to Work” scheme may be able to provide funding. Contact the disability employment adviser at the local Jobcentre Plus for advice and assistance.

Loans of equipment

If you are looking after someone on a temporary basis you might want to loan equipment. Your local Red Cross can often loan wheelchairs and some other equipment for short periods.

VAT relief on equipment

If you have a long-term illness or you're disabled, you don't have to pay VAT on certain goods and services that you buy or bring into the UK. Certain building work that you have done can also be free of VAT.

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Disabled Facilities Grant

A Disabled Facilities Grant is a local authority grant to help towards the cost of adapting your home (or the home of the person you look after) to enable the person you look after to continue to live there.

A grant is paid when the council considers that changes are necessary to meet their needs, and that the work is reasonable and practical. In Scotland, a similar scheme is in operation but is not called a disabled facilities grant. However, for ease of reference, we have retained the term.

A Disabled Facilities Grant can be used for a variety of uses to meet the needs of the person you are looking after including:

  • access to the property from outdoors and access to a garden
  • access inside the property such as widening doorways for a wheelchair or installing a stairlift
  • installing better washing facilities or adapted bathroom
  • adaptations to a kitchen such as lowering work tops
  • improving heating systems (not in Scotland)

Financial help will not usually be available for building an extension to your home. But it depends on the reason you need the extension and the arrangements in your local area. An exception would be if the extension was the only way to provide a ‘standard amenity’, such as a bathroom or kitchen.

Who is eligible for a Disabled Facilities Grant?

The person you look after may apply if they have a disability. You can also apply if you care for someone with a disability who is living with you in your own home. In either case it doesn't matter if you are an owner-occupier or tenant.

Landlords can also apply on behalf of their disabled tenants. If you require an adaptation and live in private rented housing in Scotland, you can apply directly for a grant, although you must have your landlord's consent to the works.

In all cases it’s a requirement that the property is the sole or main residence for the disabled person and that they intend to live there for at least five years after the work is completed, or for a shorter period if there are health or other special reasons.

The size of the grant

The maximum grant which can be given is £30,000 in England, £25,000 in Northern Ireland and £36,000 in Wales. The local authority has discretion to increase the maximum amount if it’s not sufficient to cover the planned works. In Scotland, there is no maximum amount.

The grant is subject to a means test so the amount which is given will depend on the savings and income of the disabled person. The rules are as follows:

  • Only the financial resources of the disabled person (and their spouse or civil partner) are relevant. Your own financial resources as a carer are not relevant even if you own the property.
  • If the disabled person is under 19 there is no means testing at all.
  • A calculation is used to determine how much the grant will be and to calculate how much would need to be contributed by the person applying for the grant.
  • If the person you look after is in receipt of certain social security benefits they are likely to be entitled to a full grant.
  • There is no upper capital limit which will prevent a grant being made but set amounts on any capital over £6,000 will be taken into account.
  • In Scotland, the mandatory grant is 80% but, if the person you care for is in receipt of certain social security benefits they will be entitled to a full grant. If the person you care for only qualifies for an 80% grant councils have the discretion to top-up this amount.
How to apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant

Disabled Facilities Grants are administered by your local housing department rather than social services. Contact the housing department for an application form.

You must apply for a grant before you start any work as you won't normally get any grant if you start work before the council approves the application.

Once they have received an application, the housing department should consult with social services and normally arrange for an assessment by an occupational therapist. The occupational therapist will consider the needs of the disabled person and also whether or not the adaptations are reasonable or practical given the age and condition of the property.

If you live in England an alternative is to use a Home Improvement Agency to help you apply for a grant and to manage the work. There are approximately 210 home improvement agencies in England, however there can be costs involved in using an agency. To find your nearest home improvement agency, visit www.foundations.uk.com/hiasearch or phone Foundations on 0845 8645 210.

There are similar organisations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

For Wales: Care & Repair Cymru 029 20576 286 www.careandrepair.org.uk
For Scotland: Care & Repair Forum Scotland 0141 221 9879 www.careandrepairscotland.co.uk
For Northern Ireland: Fold Housing Association 02890 428314 www.foldgroup.co.uk

Decisions and appeals

The housing department must give their decision in writing within six months of the date of application for the grant. If you are unhappy with the decision you could use the local authority’s complaints system. A further complaint could be made to the Local Government Ombudsman (Scottish Public Services Ombudsman in Scotland) if you are not satisfied.

How the grant will be paid

A Disabled Facilities Grant will usually only be paid if the work is carried out within twelve months of the date of when the application is approved. In some cases the grant will be paid in instalments; in other cases it may be paid as one lump sum once the work is finished. You will need to show invoices and receipts for the work.

If, after the application has been approved, the disabled person's circumstances change before the works are completed, the local housing department has a discretion as to whether to proceed with paying for all, part or none of the works. It must however take into account all the circumstances of the situation before deciding how to proceed.

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