mobility equipment

Getting & Maintaining Equipment

Stay-independent > Getting & maintaining equipment

On this page we look at useful information for getting and maintaining any equipment you might need to help with living independently. From how to find an occupational therapist to help determine what equipment will be needed, to which organisations can help with making adaptions to things that are already in your home, grants that are available for disabled facilities, whether you could be eligible for VAT exemption, and finally how to repair and maintain the specialist equipment to keep it working for you.

Finding an occupational therapist

An occupational therapist is a health professional who can support you with the practical difficulties that may affect how you manage in your everyday life as a result of a mental or physical health condition or acquired disability. They will devise a programme or plan to work with you to help you maximise your potential in the areas that are important to you. This section looks at who occupational therapists support, what they do to help, and how to find the right occupational therapist for you. 

Who do occupational therapists support? 

Occupational therapists work with all ages and with people with a wide range of conditions, including: 

  • Adults and children with reduced mobility or a physical disability 
  • Adults and children with long-term conditions such as arthritis, Parkinson’s or children with cerebral palsy 
  • Adults and children recovering from an operation or an illness such as a stroke or road traffic accident 
  • Adults and children with learning disabilities 
  • Adults and children with mental health difficulties. 

An occupational therapist will take into account the physical barriers of being able to do an activity, alongside the mental, emotional, social and environmental barriers. 

How can an occupational therapist help me? 

An occupational therapist can help you by working out different ways to do an activity to make it easier, such as: 

  • Breaking it down into small parts and practising it with you 
  • Helping you adapt your environment to make things safer and easier 
  • Identifying equipment that could help, such as the installation of grab rails or ramps in your home 
  • Sourcing the best options to meet your needs for now and in the long term as well as advising you on the safe use of assistive equipment. 

In addition, an occupational therapist can help you by: 

  • Understanding your condition and how it may affect your lifestyle and support you with making plans for the future which may include your choice of paid work or the type of property you live in 
  • Building your confidence to live the life you chose and providing techniques and strategies for dealing with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. 

How to find the right occupational therapist 

If you’re coming out of hospital after an operation or illness and you need support to relearn day-to-day tasks, occupational therapy services will be provided through the NHS both whilst you are an inpatient and later if still required as an outpatient. However due to service pressure the intervention is usually time limited. 

Otherwise, there are two ways to access an occupational therapist: 

Through your local council 

Anyone who appears to have care and support needs is entitled to a free “care needs assessment” from the local council, and if you’re having practical difficulties with day to day tasks, this is likely to be with an occupational therapist. 

To book an appointment, contact your local council’s social services department and explain your situation. Ask for a needs assessment and check if an occupational therapist will be carrying out the assessment. Depending on where you live and also the urgency of your situation, the wait for an appointment might be a few weeks or several months. You can get details of how to apply to your local council’s social services department through https://www.gov.uk/apply-needs-assessment-social-services

If the occupational therapist recommends equipment for you, and it is available from the council, they will request the item to be delivered to you. Note that you may not get as much choice as if you were buying equipment privately. In some areas, however, the council may give you a voucher equivalent to the cost of your recommended equipment to pay towards an item of your choice. 

If the occupational therapist recommends a home adaptation, such as a level access shower, a ramp, or a stair lift, you will then be means tested for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) by the council to ascertain if you have to make any financial contribution to the proposed adaptation. 

Book privately 

If you wish to receive the advice of an occupational therapist, but do not wish to go down the local council route, you can find a private / independent occupational therapist near you by looking at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists website: www.rcotss-ip.org.uk. The assessment will come with a charge but you are likely to be seen more quickly than if you request one from the local council.  

Note that if a private occupational therapist recommends equipment and you want to see if you are eligible to receive this free from the local council, you may still need to have an assessment with the local council before receiving any equipment.  

If you wish to approach an independent occupational therapist then check that they are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and just as importantly whether they have experience of working with people who have a similar condition to yourself. All occupational therapists listed on the RCOTSS website above are HCPC registered. 

It is worth contacting a number of therapists for a chat to ask about their experience, availability and fee rates. Higher fee rates will generally indicate a greater level of experience and expertise. 

Organisations that can help you with adaptations

In addition to help from your local council, there are other organisations which could help you with organising or funding adaptations to your home. This section looks at who can help and how to get in contact. 

Home improvement agencies 

If you’re not sure what adaptations you need, or you would like help with applying for funding, then a home improvement agency may be able to help. Home improvement agencies are not-for-profit organisations that support people to “stay safe, secure and warm and retain independence in their own home”.  

Each local area has a home improvement agency, and services can differ between different agencies. The services a home improvement agency provides can include: 

  • advice on how to improve the condition of your home 
  • advice on what benefits you might be entitled to 
  • help with arranging and funding home repairs 
  • help with making an application for a Disabled Facilities Grant 
  • organising fitting small aids and adaptations 
  • handyperson services 
  • help with making your home more energy efficient. 

You can find your local home improvement agency, on the Find my HIA website here

Independent Occupational Therapists 

Practically all councils will require you to have an assessment by an Occupational Therapist who will produce a report indicating that the work is necessary and appropriate for your needs or disability. They will also work with your builders and/or architect to ensure that the work is completed to ensure you can access all the facilities. 

If there is a long council waiting list in your area to see a council employed Occupational Therapist many councils will accept a report from an independent Occupational Therapist. The cost of the assessment can normally be claimed back in the grant application. 

Alternatively if you are not applying for a Disabled Facilities Grant and funding it privately you can employ an independent Occupational Therapist to help you decide on the most suitable adaptations to meet your needs both now and in the long term.  

To find an Occupational Therapist in your area go to www.rcotss-ip.org.uk

For more information on disabled facilities grants, read our guide here

Charitable grants 

You might be able to get money towards the cost of adapting your home from a charity if you meet the eligibility criteria. Different charities have different criteria for who they support. For example, Aspire provides grants for anyone with a spinal cord injury, while the Royal British Legion or the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund provides grants for serving and ex-service people and their dependants. Enquire with charities that support people in your position.  

If you can’t find anything suitable for you, try searching on the Turn 2 Us website: https://grants-search.turn2us.org.uk

Disabled Facilities Grants

If you have a disability that means you need certain adaptations to be made to your home, you could be eligible to receive a Disabled Facilities Grant from your council to pay towards the work. In England, this grant can be up to £30,000. In Wales, grants can be paid up to £36,000 and in Northern Ireland, up to £25,000. This specific grant is not available in Scotland. Follow this link for information on what support is available in Scotland.  

Possible adaptations include: 

  • widening doors 
  • installing ramps 
  • improving access to rooms and facilities, such as ground floor bathrooms 
  • providing heating systems 
  • adapting heating or lighting controls. 

Who’s eligible? 

  • To be considered for a Disabled Facilities Grant, either you or someone living in your house must be disabled.  
  • One of you must also either own or rent the property and be intending to live in the property during the grant period, which is 5 years.  
  • If you’re renting, a landlord can apply on your behalf. No work can be carried out without your landlord’s permission, but your landlord will need a good reason to refuse permission – otherwise, they could be in danger of breaking disability discrimination law. 
  • Any work would need to be necessary and appropriate to your needs. It would also need to be reasonable and possible, given the age and condition of your property.  
  • The amount of money you are given will depend on your income and whether or not you have savings over £6,000. Depending on your income and savings, you may have to pay towards any work that is done.  

Be aware that if you carry out any work on your property before any grant has been approved, you may not get the funding needed for the work.    

How do I apply? 

Contact your local council. They will send you the form you need to fill in to apply, and may arrange a financial assessment to determine what your needs are and whether you’re eligible. 

The council normally instruct the council Occupational Therapy service to visit and assess whether the adaptation or modification to your home is deemed necessary and appropriate. If necessary, the Occupational Therapist will continue to work with your architect or building contractor to ensure that the work is designed to meet your requirements both now and for the future. 

Planning and buildings regulations  

If any of the work requires planning and building regulations approval, you will need to apply for this separately.  

How is it paid? 

A grant could either be paid in instalments as the work is being carried out, or it can be paid in a lump sum at the end. Payments would be made either when the council is satisfied with the work that has been done, or when they receive an invoice, demand or receipt for payment from the contractor. If you or a relative carries out the work, the council will normally only accept invoices for materials or services you have bought.  

What if I am turned down for a grant and I disagree with this decision? 

You have the right to appeal to your council if you disagree with a decision they have made. If you have appealed, but are still not happy with the outcome, you can submit a complaint to Local Government Ombudsman. 

If you are declined on either financial grounds or grounds that what you are asking for is not within the remit of the council there are a number of charities that may offer support. For more information, read our guide to organisations that can help you with adaptions, above. 

VAT exemption

There are certain circumstances where equipment for daily living is exempt from VAT (Value Added Tax), or where the VAT rate is reduced. This section will explain this further.  

If you have a disability and are buying equipment to help you with daily living difficulties that relate to your disability, you often do not have to pay VAT on this equipment. You should also be exempt from paying VAT on the costs of installing, servicing or maintaining any of this equipment.  

You’ll need to know if your disability and the item you want to buy both meet the eligibility criteria for VAT exemption. Usually an item that has been designed or adapted to assist with the management of a disability will qualify for the exemption.  So for example a wheelchair would qualify as VAT exempt as it is specially designed for a person with a disability, but a changing table for a disabled child would not, because it is of potential use to all parents with babies and young children. 

You’ll be considered eligible if:  

  • you have a physical or mental impairment that affects your ability to carry out everyday activities 
  • you have a condition that’s treated as chronic sickness, such as diabetes 
  • you are terminally ill. 

You won’t be eligible if you are elderly and able-bodied, or if you are temporarily disabled. 

How to apply 

  • Ask the supplier of the equipment if it qualifies for VAT exemption. 
  • Fill in an eligibility declaration form to confirm in writing that you have a disability. In some cases, the supplier may provide a form for you. 
  • If you have been charged VAT when you should not have been, you can contact the supplier and request a refund.  

Reduced VAT rates 

If you are aged 60 or over, you can receive a reduced VAT rate of 5% on mobility and assistive equipment that are bought and installed in your home. This includes the supply and installation of aids such as:  

  • grab rails 
  • ramps 
  • built-in shower seats 
  • stair lifts 
  • bath lifts 
  • walk-in baths with sealable doors.  

This exemption only applies if you have the equipment provided and installed by the same supplier. It doesn’t cover repairs. 

How to apply 

  • When you are thinking of buying a piece of assistive equipment, ask the supplier if it qualifies for VAT rate reduction. 
  • They will need a written declaration from you confirming that you meet the criteria. They may provide a form for you to fill out, or give you guidelines on what to write. 
Repairing & maintaining equipment

What do I do if my equipment needs repairing? 

Your options depend on how you acquired the equipment initially: 

  • All equipment supplied from the local council and the NHS is in the main provided on what is deemed long term loan: this means that if the equipment needs regular servicing, the organisation who provided it is responsible for ensuring that it is regularly checked and maintained. The equipment service should organise a schedule (or contract to another organisation to do the work on their behalf) and you will be contacted at regular intervals during the year to arrange for a technician to visit and check your equipment remains safe and functional. Examples of equipment that require servicing include: powered wheelchairs, stair lifts, electric beds and other lifting equipment. 
  • Regarding equipment that does not require servicing but is still on loan to you by the local council, they are similarly responsible for repairing or replacing it with a similar model if it breaks down or is no longer fit for purpose. It is your responsibility to contact the provider to alert them to any equipment issues and you can normally find a label on the equipment providing contact details.
  • Likewise if you received the equipment from the NHS (e.g. a wheelchair or walker), this should be repaired/ replaced by the NHS free of charge should it similarly become unfit for purpose. 
  • If you chose your own equipment and took a voucher from the council or NHS, you may be responsible for paying for repairs, particularly if you did not choose from an approved suppler. 

If you purchased the equipment recently  

You will be protected under the Consumer Rights Act and entitled to a refund. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, goods must be as described, fit for purpose, and of satisfactory quality. If this is not the case, then depending on when you bought the item, here are your options: 

  • If you bought the item in the last 30 days, you can get an immediate and full refund. If the seller offers to repair the equipment, you don’t have to accept – you’re entitled to a refund if that’s what you would prefer. 
  • You can ask for it to be repaired within the first six months of your purchase. If this doesn’t fix the problem, you can ask for a refund. 

You won’t get a refund if you knew about the fault before you bought the equipment or it was damaged by an accident or wear and tear. 

Remember, if you are entitled to a refund, replacement, repair or compensation, it is the trader who must sort out your problem. The trader cannot tell you to go back to the manufacturer. 

For more information on asking for a refund for faulty equipment, take a look at this guide from Citizens Advice

If your equipment includes a repair contract 

Some equipment or adaptations, such as stair lifts, come with a warranty or aftercare service that may last up to a year or two years after purchase. If this applies to you, simply contact the supplier of the equipment. 

Otherwise… 

Take a look at our guide to finding a trusted trader so that you get a good deal and a good service when having your equipment repaired. 

Are there organisations which regularly maintain equipment? 

Yes! If, for example, you have purchased a stair lift without a maintenance contract, there are other organisations which offer maintenance contracts. You don’t have to buy the stair lift from them to purchase a contract.  

When organising a maintenance contract do shop around and ask companies how quickly they expect to be able respond to a call out, whether replacement  and spares are included in the contract or will these be extra. Will they be able to leave an equivalent replacement model with you if they need to take your equipment away for further work? 

Can I buy insurance for my mobility equipment?

Yes! Many companies offer insurance for standard adaptions and equipment such as stairlifts, riser-recliner chairs, and mobility scooters. Others can offer you an individual quote for less common equipment.   

This comparison of mobility scooter insurance may be useful, or search online and get a quote from several providers manually to look for a policy that suits you. Read each policy carefully and look particularly at whether you have to pay an excess, and if so, how much. 

Other pages you may find useful:

Would you like to talk through your options with someone?

Our team at the Guideposts Information Service can support you over the phone.

Call our helpline for free on: 0800 048 7035 | Mon-Fri 9am-5pm

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