Derbyshire County Council criticised for ending free home safety service for old and vulnerable

Derbyshire County Council has been criticised after opting to end a free home safety service used by the elderly and vulnerable.

Thursday, 24th March 2022, 4:00 pm

The Derbyshire Handy Van Service was established to support old and vulnerable individuals with a range of tasks. Their handymen would undertake general DIY, fall prevention and fire safety to help these people continue to live independently, and there were no charges involved.

Derbyshire County Council, who ran the service from 2016, decided to end it this month.

Martyn, who worked as a handyman for five years before DCC took over from Chesterfield Borough Council, said the service was always extremely busy.

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Derbyshire County Council

“It’s unbelievable, I was the busiest I’ve ever been, it was relentless. You’d have carers ringing saying that key safes had broken and no one could get in unless we came.

“We did a lot of stuff with the police too. They would ring saying there had been a domestic violence incident, and they needed someone to go and fit a door chain or change a lock, and we did home security stuff around cold callers.”

Martyn said that other areas are increasing these kinds of services while Derbyshire County Council is cutting theirs back, and that the elderly and vulnerable would end up paying large amounts for simple jobs around their homes.

“I don’t know what the alternative will be. People will have to pay, which they didn’t for the Handy Van service. You’re not going to get a builder to come and do a small job like fitting a curtain rail, or they’re going to charge you £200 to do it.

“Other areas are actually having more of these services - they talk about how important they are, but Derbyshire County Council don’t seem to see that.”

A Derbyshire County Council spokesperson said: “Supporting Derbyshire residents to live independent, fulfilled lives is a priority for the county council and we’re always looking at ways we can do this more effectively.

“Since 2016, the Handy Van scheme has run as a partnership between the county council and Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service. As part of this joint working, DFRS supports and maintains the fleet of eight handyvans.

“We have reviewed the scheme and as the vans are now at the end of their lifespan and would need a lot of investment to replace, both partners have agreed they can no longer support the scheme in its current form.”

According to DCC, over 80% of the work undertaken by the Handy Van service was safe and well checks and maintaining community alarms. They said that DFRS will continue these checks, and alarm fittings have been contracted to another company.

Around 17% is practical tasks, and DCC said it is considering other options for these services, some of which are already delivered by local CVS partners.

A DCC spokesperson said: “DFRS has found other ways of delivering its home fire safety checks which were part of the scheme and we’re also looking at new and better ways of delivering services to ensure we continue to support those who need our help most.

“We will continue to work with our partners to support Derbyshire’s most vulnerable residents and by spending every penny wisely we will ensure we can continue to provide essential, high-quality services for the people of Derbyshire.”