Report reveals people with arthritis are missing out on vital support in their homes

An elderly lady in her kitchen using a gadget to open a jar of food.

People with arthritis are missing out on aids and adaptations they are entitled to from local authorities, putting their independence and safety at risk and placing an unnecessary financial burden on families, warns the Room to Manoevre report from Versus Arthritis. The charity, which champions the needs of the 17.8m people in the UK with arthritis and related conditions, says 8 in 10 people with arthritis (84%) eligible for support, are missing out on life-changing equipment. This could lead to a need for more intensive and expensive care, which is putting extra strain on the social care system.

Aids and adaptations, such as grab rails, raised toilet seats or non-slip shower mats, help people with arthritis and related conditions lead more independent lives and may reduce the risk of them needing more formal care or even A&E services. Almost everyone with arthritis that the charity surveyed (95%) who currently uses aids and adaptations, said they improved their quality of life. Despite the positive impact, almost a fifth of those eligible are not using aids or adaptations at all.

Although local authorities have a duty to make aids and adaptations available, more than half of survey respondents with arthritis and eligible for support are buying equipment themselves, missing out on their entitlement. The average cost of an aid in the charity’s study was £200.

The report argues that too many people are unaware of their rights because councils are not providing adequate information:

  • Of survey respondents who were eligible, but not currently using aids and adaptations, over 85% were unaware their local authority has a duty to provide this type of equipment.
  • While a third of people sought information, only 1 in 10 surveyed said their local authority was their main source of advice, despite councils’ duty to make information accessible.

This equipment can improve quality of life and independence, but could also have wider benefits, such as reducing the strain on social care services or A&Es. A separate survey found that 95% of occupational therapists said that home adaptations reduce the need for formal social care.

Versus Arthritis is calling on local authorities ensure people with arthritis and related conditions are assessed and, if eligible, provided aids and minor adaptations free of charge. The charity is also calling on central government to support local authorities in meeting these duties.

Morgan Vine, Campaigns Manager at Versus Arthritis, said:

“Aids and adaptations are at the very front line of UK’s social care system and people with arthritis tell us how life-changing they can be. It’s not fair that of the 17.8m people with arthritis and related conditions, so few are aware that this support is out there and even fewer have been assessed and provided with the equipment they need and should be getting for free.“

“Adapting someone’s bathroom so that they can get up from the toilet can lead to fewer slips and falls, potentially avoiding emergency care. Providing aids for dressing or cooking can help someone stay independent and out of the formal social care system for longer.”

She added: “We need both local authorities and central government to work with us to make sure their legal obligations are met – to improve people’s lives and to ease the pressure on our already strained social care system.”

Christine Walker, said:

“I’ve had osteoarthritis since the age of 19 and took the attitude that it wouldn’t beat me. Just making a cup of tea and other tasks around the kitchen can be complicated but aids and gadgets have revolutionised my life. The cost has really mounted up over the years – the adaptations in my bathroom alone came to £3,000, but it was necessary, so we just had to get on with it.”

“I was shocked to discover, after talking to Versus Arthritis that I might be entitled to some of these items from my local authority. I know councils are under pressure, but these aids and adaptations are invaluable, helping people like me manage my condition at home and not rely on services provided by the council or the NHS.”