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."