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Date: 26 Aug 2004

Community equipment and adaptions - Keep assessments close to home, says UNISON

UNISON, the union representing Scotland's Occupational Therapists, today (Thursday) criticised the Audit Scotland report on the management of community equipment and adaptions for failing to take into account the need for proper resources and local needs in its critical look at the topic.

Occupational Therapists work in both the NHS and local authorities ensuring that people with long term illness, health problems or disabilities have the support necessary to continue to live in their own homes.

Kirsten Hey, an Occupational Therapist and UNISON activist said "This report points to a problem with resources in some areas. Care in the Community and Joint Future are not 'cheap' options and must be properly funded. We are pleased that staff are appreciated, but where there are problems it is almost always due to lack of resources - something that the Audit Scotland report doesn't make clear."

UNISON supports the updating of national guidelines, and supports the provision of best information, but the union is concerned that the Audit Commission seems to be suggesting a 'One-size-fits-all' approach.

Stephen Smellie, Chair of UNISON's Social Work Issues Group said "Responsibilities are best allocated to the authority nearest to the client. Assessing someone being discharged from hospital is surely best done by staff in the hospital. Assessing someone in the community is best done by staff working in the community. OTs work in both. And what is appropriate may vary across the country. Indeed, the need for a local solution to local problems was built in to the Joint Future legislation. What suits West Lothian won't necessarily suit Wester Ross."

UNISON also draws attention to a new problem in this area. Kirsten Hey points out that new Scottish Executive guidelines mean that Home Improvement Grants for adaptions to people's houses are now means-tested.

"For a major adaptation, such as an extension on a house, clients can be expected to contribute thousands of pounds which can put it out of reach for many."

She said. "Although the right adaptation can reduce or remove the need for care packages, and thus save public money."

ENDS

For Further Information Please Contact: Stephen Smellie (Chair - Soc Wk Issues Gp) 07740 096 864 (m) Kirsten Hey (OT and UNISON steward) 07771 881615 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)

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