Oxford City Council’s Home Improvement Agency doubles grants to accelerate hospital discharges to support the NHS through the Coronavirus emergency

Published: Wednesday, 8th April 2020

Oxford City Council’s Home Improvement Agency (HIA) has doubled the limit on its Safe & Secure grants.

This will enable more hospitalised patients to return safely to their homes - helping to relieve pressure on NHS bed-space, staff and facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

The HIA helps older, disabled and vulnerable residents within Oxford city to live safely and independently in their own homes. This helps prevent so-called ‘bed-blocking’ in hospitals, where patients cannot be discharged until there is a safe and suitable home living environment.

The grants, which have risen to up to £2,000 per household, are non-means tested, resulting in faster access to funds and bolstering vital work to ensure client safety. Up until now, any works costing more than £1,000 had been subject to means testing under the Disabled Facility Grant system, which slows down the process.

Workers have been redeployed from Oxford City Council’s wholly-owned direct services company, ODS, to provide additional support to undertake the work. The jobs will not require quotes or any forms, just an email from a health professional saying the works are needed, further accelerating the completion of work needed to allow patients to be discharged from hospital quickly.

All Oxford hospitals and health care facilities have been informed of the HIA’s new measures to help the NHS in tackling the coronavirus crisis.

Home improvements

The HIA has identified keysafes as key to enabling hospital discharges as they enable carers to enter properties. If these are not in place clients cannot be discharged from hospital. 

A keysafe fitting costs only £74, but it is estimated to save the NHS approximately seven bed days – worth around £2,532 – by enabling carers to gain easy access to discharged patients in their homes rather than having to wait for sets of keys to be distributed.

On weekdays, keysafes are fitted within 24 hours of being requested, and usually within the same day.

Other initiatives include security measures such as locks, assembling flat pack furniture, buying much needed bedding, and installing grab rails both inside and outside of the home, small ramps, non-slip mats and tacking trailing cables. 

Requests can be made immediately and work will be offered freely to clients.  

Additional care and support will be provided for clients suffering from dementia to enhance their quality of life, for example by issuing memory aids, such as clocks and whiteboards.

The HIA can also help vulnerable clients with boiler repairs or replacements if they are unrepairable.

All work will follow Public Health England guidelines.

Helping the vulnerable

The HIA currently sees around eight Safe & Secure cases per week, however anticipate that this number will rise as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

One resident who has been helped includes 80 year old Mary Taylor (name has been changed), who lives alone, and had not had a flushable toilet for several months. She was using buckets of water to flush her toilet, which was increasingly becoming more of a struggle. 

After she contacted the Home Improvements Agency, the City Council were able to use the Safe & Secure grant to approve for contractors to fix and replace her toilet immediately.

Following the works Mary said:

“Everything went well, thank you. I have a flushable toilet for the first time in about three months. Great!! I am very grateful to you for arranging this and I'm feeling encouraged by this experience.”

"Through doubling our limit for our Safe & Secure we are allowing vulnerable people who are currently in hospital to return to their homes quicker, whilst helping to relieve pressure on the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic. The grants allow us to make both improvements to people’s homes and their way of life. During this time we all need to come together and offer support for the NHS – the Home Improvements Agency are able to support through providing a safe and suitable home for those returning from the hospital.”

Councillor Mike Rowley, Cabinet Member for Affordable Housing

 If you would like more information, call the Home Improvements Agency on 01865 252 788 or email hia@oxford.gov.uk

More information on HIA services.