Closure confirmed of handyman and advice service for Lancashire's elderly and disabled

The service carried out more than 9,000 jobs in 2018/19
The service carried out more than 9,000 jobs in 2018/19

An odd job and advice service for vulnerable people across Lancashire will end next year, after an official call for its closure to be reconsidered was defeated.

Almost a dozen opposition members on Lancashire County Council requested that the decision – taken by the authority’s cabinet earlier this month – should be subject to a “call-in”. That would have forced the cabinet member responsible for the service to formally rethink the proposals – and either change his mind or explain why he was sticking to the original proposal.

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But the council’s cross-party health scrutiny committee voted against the move at a specially-convened meeting.

That means the county’s home improvement service will now cease next March. It currently undertakes repairs and maintenance to ensure that homes of disabled people or those at risk of hospital admission are safe and secure. Advice about benefits and grants for home upgrades is also provided.

A statutory service to provide minor adaptations like handrails for residents eligible for adult social care support will continue.

Conservative cabinet member for health and wellbeing, Shaun Turner, said the authority was encouraging other organisations, including the NHS, to look at how they could continue the service.

“We asked partners if they could help us fund it, because at the end of the day, we’re paying for it and they’re benefiting,” County Coun Turner said.

He also suggested that the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) – a pot of money available to district councils to carry out more major property changes – could also help bridge the gap.

But Labour opposition leader Azhar Ali said DFG money was not uniformly available across the county – and was probably insufficient in any case.

“What is being proposed flies in the face of all the current national thinking about keeping people active in their own communities – and will inevitably lead to loneliness, isolation and despair. It stores up problems for the future and solves nothing, “ County Coun Ali said.

The proposal also recommends attempting to better link the home improvement agencies which carry out the work to newly-developing “neighbourhoods” designed to provide more comprehensive prevention services in the community.

However, Liberal Democrat group leader dismissed the cut to the existing service as “penny-wise and pound foolish”.

Committee member Gail Hodson said she had been left “despondent” by the council’s reaction to a public consultation which had shown that 82 per cent of service users and 90 per cent of service providers disagreed with the proposal.

“All the responses are overwhelmingly against the changes proposed, but with the [Conservative] majority in this room, it’s a foregone conclusion – I don’t know why you went to consultation in the first place,” Coun Hodson said.

But County Coun Turner pointed to amendments which had been made to the original proposal.

“We take note of the consultations and there are various things we change – we’re extending this [service] by three months, so we can work the changes through.

“We’ve got to go out to consultation, but the people you consult with…might take a position…and you’ve got to factor that in,” he added.