Consultants have been called in by Birmingham City Council to find ways to help frail elderly and disabled people live for longer in their own homes.
Financial experts Deloitte are examining how social services can speed up the installation of stair lifts, showers and other major aids which are often required to prevent people from being taken into homes and residential care.
The move follows a study by the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI), which criticised Birmingham for an average 74-week delay in installing disability adaptations.
The figure, three times the national average, is up from 62 weeks a year ago and has been described by CSCI as ‘not good enough’. Cuts in government grant were partly blamed for the deterioration by Peter Hay, the council’s strategic director of adults and communities.
Mr Hay added that social services had been a victim of its own success, by meeting government targets to help elderly people continue living at home. But this meant an increased demand for items such as stairlifts and showers.
He told a scrutiny committee that the council had responded to the report by introducing a priority system, where people in the greatest need would be given help first. Anyone in hospital requiring a stairlift in order to be discharged would be at the top of the queue.
Mr Hay admitted people with less serious problems might have to wait even longer. He said it was likely that the waiting time had dropped since the CSCI report, which was based on research at the start of 2008.
Mr Hay cast doubt on the apparent success rate of other local authorities, adding that some councils used “statistical trickery” when reporting to the government. Birmingham reported every application for stairlifts and other aids while some did not, he claimed.
CSCI’s overall rating for adult social services, two stars with promising prospects for future improvement, was described as ‘solid progress’ by cabinet member Sue Anderson.
Coun Anderson (Lib Dem Sheldon) said: “Birmingham is no longer viewed as a failure. There are lots of areas where we are held up as a national exemplar. We are not complacent but most of the CSCI report is upbeat.”
On aids for people with disabilities, Coun Anderson said: “We are working closely with our housing colleagues in terms of getting quicker assessments but there are pressures within the system with more people wanting major adaptations which are expensive.”