Home improvement agencies (HIAs) are working hard to prove that very point and have fresh evidence to strengthen their case.
Last winter, the Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT) coordinated the Warm Homes Service, funded by £500,000 from the Department of Health, which aimed to prevent cold related harm and illness among vulnerable people.
It was delivered by 55 agencies, reached more than 6,000 people within a four-month period − many of whom had long term conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, asthma and dementia − and carried out more than 1,200 jobs ranging from fixing faulty boilers to draughty windows.
An evaluation of the service by Sheffield Hallam University is being launched in Westminster by Baroness Andrews, Chair of the Foundations Independent Living Trust.
The launch brings together representatives from government departments, national charities, businesses and the HIA sector to discuss the findings.
Rather than tackle problems such as poor heating in isolation, visits made by the service were an opportunity to assess a person’s wider needs, offer information, advice and guidance and if necessary refer them to specialist support.
Indeed, 41 per cent of clients supported by the scheme were referred to health providers and 40 per cent to agencies such as the Citizens Advice service.
It’s clear the service had a significant impact on several fronts, from reducing fuel poverty and improving wellbeing to lessening the chances of respiratory conditions deteriorating.
Clients feel more comfortable, happier and generally much better as a result of interventions.
Researchers conclude the scheme delivered “quick, cheap interventions that may be extremely cost effective in terms of cost savings to the NHS and other sectors” and “made a big and immediate difference to clients’ lives”.
Let’s put those savings into perspective. The average cost of carrying out the Warm Homes Service work at a person’s home was £196.
If those improvements prevent the need for just one night in a hospital bed it would save £549. Yet it’s a fraction of the true benefits when you consider the multiple savings achieved through early diagnosis as a result of referrals.
One of the key findings from the evaluation is the degree to which it enabled home improvement agencies to develop new working relationships with healthcare providers.
Baroness Andrews, Chair of the FILT Board of Trustees, highlighted ‘The FILT Warm Homes Scheme demonstrated the effectiveness of investment in preventative measures. Our charity is working to reduce the risk of harm to vulnerable and older people through quick, efficient and, in many cases, low cost measures.’
‘Working with the HIAs throughout England FILT has the potential to deliver better outcomes for many vulnerable people’