Frail and disabled pensioners are waiting for a year and a half before getting a stairlift or bathroom shower fitted by Birmingham City Council, disturbing new figures have confirmed.
The average 74-week delay in installing disability adaptations is up from 62 weeks a year ago and is a major blow to the claim that the much-criticised social services and housing departments are on the road to excellence.
The Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) has expressed concern and said more must be done to cut the length of time people in Birmingham wait for help, which is three times greater than the average for England.
CSCI business relationship manager Pat Bailey told council leaders yesterday that the performance in helping pensioners to live at home for longer through providing disability aids to give them a better quality of life was not good enough.
Addressing a cabinet meeting, Mrs Bailey said: “This is just too long for people to wait. It is something that is basic and fundamental to living safely at home and it needs to be addressed.”
Her comments spoiled an otherwise upbeat CSCI survey of Birmingham’s adults and communities services, which awarded the council two stars and drew attention to a promising capacity to improve further.
Mrs Bailey said social services had improved during the past four years but warned against a “yo-yo effect” which could see gains reversed.
She added that the housing department should take equal responsibility for failing to act more quickly.
The long wait for disability adaptations was described as “horrific” by opposition Labour group leader Sir Albert Bore.
Sir Albert (Lab Ladywood) accused the council’s ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition of attempting to hide the truth by not publishing waiting time figures. The average 72-week delay did not emerge until Mrs Bailey delivered a verbal report to the cabinet.
He added: “At no time have these horrific figures ever been reported to a meeting of this cabinet. I find this alarming.”
Sue Anderson, the cabinet member for adults and communities, said: “We are certainly not complacent. We always knew we wouldn’t make a meteoric rise and that we needed to consolidate any changes. The job is never done and we still have some way to go.”
Coun Anderson (Lib Dem Sheldon) said moves to develop care villages, where elderly people will live in purpose-built sheltered accommodation, would reduce the need to spend money on stairlifts and other adaptations.
Housing cabinet member John Lines said: “I share the concerns, but I also remember a time when Labour ran the council when things were so bad that you couldn’t even get on the waiting list for a stairlift.
“Yes we do need to improve and we are working to try to satisfy a demand that is increasing day by day.
“It comes down to finance every time and we have to spread the money thinly across the board.”