Published: 24/02/2005, Volume II5, No. 5944 Page 22

Gordon Hinchcliffe, deputy director, Foundations, the national co-ordinating body for home improvement agencies

In response to Dea Birkett's article on integrating social care (page 17, 10 February), I can help with the grab rail question.

If the 70-year-old in question was to contact their local home improvement agency, they would receive an assessment that would not only identify whether a grab rail was the best solution, but also advise on a range of other issues around accident prevention, crime reduction and benefits.

HIAs are locally based not-for-profit organisations and approximately 90 per cent of England now has access to services. The government is recognising the important role HIAs play in delivering targets such as the decent homes standard for private sector housing.

As Ms Birkett pointed out, it is often the person in need who still has to mediate between health, education and social services.

The Devon Home Improvement Agency Project Group is a collective name for a group of organisations in Devon that includes: the Devon Supporting People Team; Devon social services; all Devon district councils; all Devon primary care trusts; HIA project group and reference group providers; and the Mid-Devon police and fire services.

In a complex two-tier authority, this group wanted to reconfigure the delivery of housing support services across Devon. A successful pilot in mid-Devon resulted in simplified access by service users, carers and professionals.

The new HIA service co-ordinator provides advocacy to the service user and 'progress chasing' for the care manager - saving valuable assessment time and routing tasks to the appropriate provider. This excellent inter-agency working should be held up as an example from which other agencies can learn.