Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence

Memorandum by Helen Jackson MP (DHB 41)


  Following an adjournment debate earlier this year and in the face of growing support for our EDM we are keen to promote the idea of the government looking at the possibility of piloting a new incentive scheme for landlords, and owner occupiers, to adapt their bathrooms to include a level access shower.

  Problems with washing are by far the most common discomfort that leads people to apply for disabled facilities grants. They can wait for years before such a grant may be processed. Sometimes there is a long bureaucratic wait for occupational health assessment, local authority decision as to the real need, which often puts those able to stand at the basin for a strip wash being placed on non-urgent lists. They are also the most common reason that prevents early discharge from hospital.

  A determined drive to build and upgrade houses to a standard that includes, within the bathroom, a level access shower would over time obviate the need for this to be a special application for so many elderly people who wish to remain independent in their own homes. Recent research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation discovered that such adaptations transformed people's lives. Before alterations, people used words like "prisoner", "degraded" and "afraid" to describe their situation: following the work they spoke of being "independent" and "confident".

  The project has the support of the National Housing Federation, the Housing Corporation, the Federation of Master Builders, the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Institute of Plumbing, The Bathroom Manufacturers Association, Disability Rights Commission, The National Disabled Persons Housing Service, Barnado's, Age Concern, Shelter, Public Health, The Institute of Environmental Health and Local Authorities.

  We believe that the draft Housing bill offers the opportunity to introduce such a scheme in this parliamentary session. An initial look at the legislation suggests that it might form the content of a New Clause in part 1 of the Bil, perhaps amongst other miscellaneous provisions in Chapter five, page 68.

  Any such incentive scheme would of course need to be supplemented by government guidance and advice in other areas such as advice to the new Regional Housing Boards, stock transfer arrangements and business plans, Part M of the Building Regulations and perhaps part 5, clause 150 of the Bill.

  I do hope your committee will see the benefit of the outline scheme and consider appropriate recommendations. We are happy to offer any further information.

Helen Jackson MP

Sheffield Hillsborough


  The number of older people living alone in their own homes is set to increase considerably over the next few decades and 23% of older people experience difficulties in the bathroom. Maintaining dignity and independence in the home, as we move towards an ageing population, ought to be a priority.

  The tradition of bathing and the installation of showers over the bath mean that a great number of elderly and disabled people, who are unable to manage to get in or out of the bath, are no longer able to wash themselves adequately.

  We are keen to promote the idea of a new incentive scheme for shower installations as outlined below. At a meeting with the minister for housing, on 6 May, we asked the government to consider further help on details for a scheme that might be piloted in certain areas.

Scheme Outline

  A really effective scheme would need to be accessible to private landlords, Local Authorities, Housing Associations, tenants and private homeowners.

  There would need to be several grades of shower to meet the varying needs of applicants and should include an element of self-assessment, so that there is no wait for occupational therapist assessment.

  Showers would be most successfully installed under warranty schemes, using best practice and good quality, with installers using self-certificated insurance backed schemes. Some large local authorities have found that a partnering approach with a number of local contractors under agency agreements works well. There could be more building work than plumbing involved, depending on the condition of the house or the type of installation required.

  We suggest the use of a certified range of family inclusive products that respect the integrity of the home. The products should have a limited range of specifications, leading to lower long-term maintenance costs.

  Any such scheme would need to be run alongside the existing DFG Scheme, so that those who need additional help can access this and would require additional funding over and above SCG allocations for DFGs.


    —  The average cost of a level access shower adaptation can range from £100 up to £2,800.

    —  A level access (wheelchair accessible) shower installation average at around £3,500 for Sheffield Local Authority.

    —  We suggest the use of non-means tested flat rate or a simple incentive contribution of 10%.

    —  There would be economies in the standardisation of a program of works and also economies of scale through bulk ordering.

Associated benefits


    —  Less hot water is required for a shower than a bath and less energy is required to heat the water. A typical shower uses on average 25 litres whilst a bath uses 48 litres.

  Employment & Training

    —  it would boost the local building and plumbing industry, increasing employment and training opportunities. In 1998 only 56% of households had showers, so there is a potential for market growth.

    —  it could lead to an increase in specialist contractors attracted to the benefits of the scheme.

Housing Stock

    —  The scheme would have a long-term impact on the lifetime use of the housing stock and the lifetime home movement.

    —  It would lead to the renovation of both existing and new housing stock to increase their lifetime use. Over a 100 years a house could change hands up to 13 times, one in four families have a disabled member for whom a level access shower would be of benefit.

    —  It would reduce the cost of future adaptations and make them easier to achieve.


    —  It would reduce the social cost of caring with fever lifting injuries and stress related illnesses to both the carer and cared for.

    —  It would enable more people to live independently at home and reduce the need for more intensive and costly care.

    —  It would lead to the possibility of greater personal hygiene.

    —  It may help to reduce home accidents, such as falls in the bath and risks of getting in and out of bath.

    —  Reduce bed blocking in hospitals due to lack of bathing facilities on discharge.


  We recognise that there will continue to be a requirement for a specific disabled Facilities Grant scheme, but believe it would benefit from a showering grant scheme in the following ways:

    —  Provide a streamlined response to bathroom adaptations, reducing the time people have to suffer the indignity of strip washing when their mobility is reduced.

    —  Simplified system would reduce waiting times and procedural bottlenecks.


  We believe that this new scheme would lead to social, environmental, housing and employment benefits and would be extremely popular. We are happy to let the committee have any further details they may require.

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