Older people’s homes in Shropshire are becoming safe from crime and hazards thanks to a Community Care award-winning project. Natalie Valios reports
Older people in Telford & Wrekin should feel safer in their homes thanks to a free home safety check provided by the council. The council’s Home Improvement Agency launched in September 2004 with a remit to help older, disabled and other low income homeowners.
The home safety check service, called HOMEsafe, is part of the Home Improvement Agency and came about after the social services department developed a falls prevention service in 2004 with the primary care trust.
The remit to check for hazards in older people’s homes was expanded, says Paul Smith, agency services manager. The service already had links with the local energy efficiency advice centre and started to offer free energy-saving light bulbs and referrals for heating and insulation.
Then it contacted the local community safety team that offered HOMEsafe, a van and running costs for fitting locks and bolts for older victims of burglary. The crime prevention panel gave more funding for addressing the fear of crime. The fire service also came on board by offering further funding and free smoke alarms.
It was felt that the different surveys used by each partner should be combined into one comprehensive form, says Smith. So now the survey includes triggers for all partners’ requirements – falls prevention, home maintenance, energy efficiency, home security and fire safety.
At the start traditional advertising wasn’t working in bringing referrals. “So we developed a presentation based on the TV show Family Fortunes,” Smith says. “We use this in older people’s clubs to present what we do and why it would be a good idea for them to have their home checked.”
The audience is asked to shout out the answers to a question. “There is the ‘ting’ if they get it right and the ‘uh-uhhh’ sound when it’s wrong.”
At the end of the presentation there is a Spot the Hazard competition where small groups discuss hazards in their home. Up to 12 referrals generally come out of each presentation.
If the survey shows up any other service that would be beneficial, home safety adviser Steve Keay refers them to other services.
Satisfaction surveys have found that 89 per cent of clients have found the service helpful and a similar percentage would recommend the service to a friend. Half believed that the service had reduced the chance of them slipping or falling and one-third felt their health or well-being had improved as a result. One client said the down-to-earth and practical information was “marvellous, much more use than commiseration”.
The prize money has been spent on a handyperson service, HOMEfix, and some new irons. It was found that the cables of some of the irons that residents had been using for years were fraying dangerously. HOMEfix provides a trustworthy way for older people to get small DIY jobs done without worrying about rogue traders.
●For more information on HOMEsafe e-mail Paul Smith
KEYS TO SUCCESS
●It combines fall prevention, home security, home maintenance, energy efficiency and fire safety into one survey.
● Following the survey, any small jobs are carried out and clients are offered advice or referred to other services.
● Most materials are provided free through partnerships with other organisations.
● Clients can accept or reject the advice offered and can take advantage of all, some or none of the services offered.
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This article appeared in the 1 March issue of the magazine under the heading “Safe as houses”
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