Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Disabled Problems in Thanet

Representatives from Thanet Council have told a Government minister that the scheme to provide disabled adaptions is not sustainable in areas like Thanet, with a higher than average number of older people.

Cllr. Ingrid Spencer, Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Services and senior Council officers, met with Baroness Andrews, a Minister in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minster, in London last week (Wednesday 3rd May) along with representatives from Swale Borough and Dover District Council to discuss the problems that authorities are having in meeting the demand for Disabled Facilities Grants.

Councils across the country are finding it increasingly difficult to meet the demand for Disabled Facilities Grants, because of a growing elderly and frail population, but the problem is worse in Thanet.

Figures from the 2001 Census show that Thanet already has a significant elderly population, with more than one in five households over the age of 65, well above the national average of 15%. The number of people with long term illnesses is also well above the regional and national average at 23%.

The Minister was told that Thanet Council has increased expenditure on Disabled Facilities Grants in recent years to try and keep pace with the growing demand, with additional money put into the scheme by the Council over the last two years in a bid to reduce the backlog of claims.

Cllr. Ingrid Spencer said: "This was quite a positive meeting and we were able to make a number of useful points to the Minister about the scheme and how it operates on the ground. The Minister was very sympathetic to the difficulties faced by all Council in delivering Disabled Facilities Grants. She recognised the financial and demographic pressures are greater in Thanet than many other parts of the country, because of our elderly population and the levels of long term illness in our District, but it was also made clear by our colleagues from other parts of Kent that this is not a problem specific to Thanet. It's something that many other Councils across the country are also experiencing problems with."

She added: "The Minister welcomed our insights into the difficulties that we are experiencing with this scheme and indicated that a major review is to be conducted about the future of these grants. This is welcome news indeed, as I think we have all known for some time that there are difficulties with the way the scheme operates at present. It is something that needs to be improved, so that those awaiting adaptations can get the work they so desperately need, but we must be realistic. Individual Councils simply do not have the resources to meet the demand in their areas, so any changes to the scheme must involve more funding from a national level."


Anonymous said...

We have heard this claptrap from a labour Govt before; oh gosh, we had better have a review! They will soon have reviews about reviews whilst Thanet's bed-bound and wheelchair bound continue to suffer!

Cllr David Green said...

The level of disability in a community is one of the factors used in the Standard Spending Assesment, which feeds into the annual Government grant to the Council.
There is then an assesment done concerning the predicted requirement for disability grants in the District. The local Council then has to decide how much to spend in this area up to that limit (this part of the annual grant is not ring fenced). The Government then undertakes to match that ammount on a 40:60% ratio.
In recent years, our council has decided not to grant the full ammount to meet the assessed requirement. The Government has forfilled its commitment to match 60% for 40% Thanet's allocation.
On top of this, there are serious deficiencies in the way Thanet and KCC assess individuals needs and impliment the work required, lead in many cases to years of delay in needy indivuals suffering whilst the necessary work is done.
Some people believe that this is nothing more than an underhand way of managing the inadequate budget.
It may be that Thanet has a case for more Government grant, but Mrs Spencer would have a better case if she was already spending to the maximum allowed and she and her colleagues at KCC were delivering the assesments and improvements needed more efficiently.

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear!