Home Improvements Service Success under Council Control

A HOME improvement agency service has slashed its backlog and cut waiting times after being brought back under direct control of Reading Borough Council.

The service which assists adaptations to council-owned and private homes was brought back in-house last June after the previous contractor ended its agreement early.

The results of a recent survey show most customers now rank the service as excellent, good or satisfactory.

The Home Improvement Service helps residents who are older, disabled or on low incomes to repair or adapt their homes to meet their specific needs. This can allow people to live independently for longer or to return home from a hospital stay more quickly.

Aster Living was commissioned to provide the service for Reading, Wokingham and West Berkshire councils for three years in November 2013 but chose to end the contract early in June 2016. Each of the local authorities decided to bring the work in-house.

The teams now arrange major adaptations for Council tenants who require them and for private sector homes through Disabled Facilities Grants or Home Improvement Grants or Loans. Minor adaptations are carried out cross-tenure by the team.

A new Housing Occupational Therapist was recruited to carry out assessments and recommendations for adaptations, identify future needs of disabled tenants and find creative solutions to increase independence for customers.

Officers involved in the adaptations process reviewed the systems in place to make the process more efficient and less bureaucratic for residents.

The Council’s team adopted a backlog of 83 outstanding jobs when it took over the service in June 2016 but there are now only two jobs remaining and they are currently in progress.  There were also 13 Home Improvement Grant cases outstanding and 11 have now been completed.

The average time taken to deal with major adaptations has fallen significantly from 45 weeks to 27 weeks for private sector adaptations and from 45 to 24 weeks for Council properties.

Cllr John Ennis, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Housing, said:

“I’m delighted the Home Improvement Service is now working so much more efficiently within the Council.

“The work the teams carry out can make such a huge difference to the lives of residents; allowing them to live more independently for longer or getting them back home from a hospital stay quickly and safely.

“Customer satisfaction levels have increased and the thank you messages from customers have highlighted how vital these improvement works can be.

A report on the Home Improvement Service is being presented to the Council’s Housing, Neighbourhoods and Leisure committee on 15th November and can be found here: http://www.reading.gov.uk/media/7916/Item-7/pdf/Item_7.pdf

David Millward

For media enquiries about this release call 0118 937 4289