Leadership, ambition and drive ‘sadly missing’ in efforts to improve housing adaptation services for older and disabled people in Wales
Housing adaptation services in Wales continue to fall below the standards expected of them leaving people struggling to get the support and facilities they need, according to a National Assembly committee.
The Public Accounts Committee found a postcode lottery of services across the country as a result of the various funding streams as well as the locations and circumstances people are living in, whether they be in local authority accommodation, private tenants, homeowners or other.
Assembly Members followed up a report from the Auditor General for Wales which found that the current system for delivering adaptations reinforces inequalities for some disabled and older people, and addressing need is complicated by the different sources of funding.
These differences are resulting in people with similar needs receiving different standards of service because of the policy choices of public bodies.
The Committee's findings echo the issues highlighted in previous reviews in 2005, 2013 and 2015 and Assembly Members are not convinced the Welsh Government and other public bodies will address these well-documented problems.
Responding to previous critical reports the government introduced its own 'ENABLE' review. Its intention is to establish a new system of monitoring and reporting with local authorities and other public bodies required to record the same core set of information and indicators.
But the Committee found that ENABLE doesn't take into the account some of the main causes of delays to adapting people's homes, in particular:
Data relating to planning permissions or utility-company approvals;
Delays created by applicant/ household choices of decisions;
Equalities data capturing the ethnicity of the applicant;
Delays arising from difficulties appointing contractors; and,
The time taken and outcome of the suitability of a home for adaptation.
"More than a decade and four separate reports later we believe the strategic leadership, ambition and drive to eradicate the inconsistencies in housing adaptations is sadly missing," said Nick Ramsay AM, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
"Older and disabled people are still struggling to get the support and facilities they need to stay in their own homes and we are not convinced by the latest assurances from the Welsh Government and other public bodies that they are working to improve things.
"We want the Welsh Government to prioritise national minimum requirements for all adaptations, and that it provides support and guidance for delivery organisations to improve integrated services.
"We will be revisiting this issue to see what progress has been made in the future."
The Committee makes six recommendations in its report, including:
That the Welsh Government publishes the performance data it has collated under the ENABLE review by November 2018. In publishing this information the Welsh Government should clearly set out any deficiencies in the first round of performance information it collected – for example, organisations not providing returns – and how it intends to address these gaps;
That the Welsh Government prioritise the establishment of national minimum standards for all adaptations to ensure disabled and older people receive the same standard of service irrespective of where they live, who their landlord is and whether they own their own home; and,
That the Welsh Government revises its national performance indicators for data collection in 2019-20. The indicators should be designed to allow delivery organisations to evaluate their performance, inform their strategy and improve service delivery.
The report will now be considered by the Welsh Government.