Living independently at home

Information about equipment, home adaptations and support.

If you, or someone you know, struggles with everyday tasks, there could be equipment that can help. 


Equipment can protect people from accidents, assist them with the everyday tasks of life and/or make it easier to provide care for them. It can also help people to move back home from hospital. 

The range of equipment available to make life easier for people who have difficulty with daily tasks is increasing all the time.  A growing range of items are available from high street shops; others can be found in specialist shops, catalogues, or on the internet.  

Health and care professionals can give you advice about equipment, which might help you.   

You can also get impartial advice about what equipment you might find useful from: Disability North East,  

The Dene Centre,  
Castle Farm Road,  
NE3 1PH  

Phone (0191) 284 0480 for an appointment 
Text Direct 18001 0191 284 0480  

Web address  

Equipment you can buy

Listings of private companies offering equipment and advice can also be found in telephone directories, such as Thompson’s or the Yellow Pages, and through using internet search engines.   

Some examples are:  

Argos – Mobility aids, bathing equipment, toileting equipment, tables and trolleys
Boots – Mobility and daily living aids  
Lloyds Pharmacy – Mobility and daily living aids  
Amazon can deliver a wide range of equipment – try the search term "disability aids" on their website  
OT stores – 0845 260 7061 or  
Essential Aids  - 01273 719889 or  
Healthcare Pro – 0345 121 8111  
Ability Superstore - 0800 2550498 or 0161  8500884  

The list of suppliers above is an example of where equipment can be purchased and does not mean that we recommend or have approved their products or services. 

Help from the council

If you have social care or health needs you can borrow, free of charge, equipment through the Joint Equipment Loans Service (JELS).  

The types of equipment JELS provide includes: 

  • Beds and chairs 
  • Bathing and showering equipment 
  • Toileting aids 
  • Hoisting and moving and handling equipment 
  • Walking aids and basic wheelchairs 
  • Pressure relief equipment 
  • Equipment specifically designed for children 
  • Equipment for visual and hearing impairments 
A variety of health and social care professionals, including occupational therapists, physiotherapists, social workers, care managers, district nurses and health visitors, can assess your needs and if equipment will improve your situation or that of someone you care for, they can arrange equipment from JELS. 
If you are not already in contact with a professional who can advise you, please contact Onecall to request an assessment.   
If you already have equipment loaned through JELS and need to contact them directly, you can do this by ringing 01670 730595, or you can use one of the alternative contact methods listed on the page for Onecall  our single point of access for all adult social care services. 

Who is eligible to borrow equipment? 

The service provides equipment for anyone that needs it, but this decision is made by health or social care professionals including care managers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, district nurses and health visitors. 

How long does it take to get equipment? 

JELS are open Monday to Friday 8.30am – 4pm, JELS aim to deliver standard stock items of equipment within ten working days on receipt of a routine request; five working days for urgent requests and 48 hours for emergency requests. 
However, if your assessed need is for an item of equipment that is not held as standard stock and must be ordered in it may take considerably longer than equipment delivery timeframes. 

How is equipment delivered?  

The delivery vans regularly go to all areas in Northumberland and will deliver your equipment at the first suitable opportunity.  When JELS are delivering the equipment requested for you, you will be phoned the day before the planned delivery day to make sure that you will be in. 

Using the equipment 

In most case the person who requested the equipment for you will need to visit you after it has been delivered, to set it up and show you, or your carers, how to use it safely. 

Returning the equipment 

If the equipment you have loaned through JELS is no longer needed, you can arrange for it to be collected by calling 01670 730595 or you can return it direct to JELS between 8am and 3.30pm Monday to Thursday and between 8am and 3pm on Fridays, at:

Joint Equipment Loans Service 
Northumberland County Council 
43 Colbourne Crescent 
Nelson Park Industrial Estate 
NE23 1WB 


If your assessed need is a wheelchair JELS can provide basic models of wheelchairs for short term needs.   
However, if your need is a wheelchair for long term use, more specialist wheelchair specification, postural support to the wheelchair or powered wheelchair these are all provided by through Northumbria Healthcare Trust's wheelchair service who can be contacted on 0191 282 8958. 
Wheelchair services accept referrals from healthcare professionals only, you can ask your GP or consultant to refer you to them. 

Telecare community alarms service and equipment 

Our telecare service can provide you with some additional security for your wellbeing at home. The service is available 24 hours a day 365 days a year. 
You can find out more in the Telecare section below.

There are many groups and organisations in Northumberland who offer a range of support for adults and carers with care and support needs.

This includes advice and information, help at home, assistance with money issues, finding work and leisure opportunities and getting out and about. 

Some of the main organisations available locally which can help you or point you in the right direction include:
ADAPT - offers information and services, including accessible transport, to disabled people.
Telephone: 01434 600 599 or visit:
Age UK Northumberland - offers information and services targeted for the over 50s.
Telephone: 01670 784800 or visit:
Alzheimer’s Society – offers information and support to people living with dementia and their carers.
Telephone: 0845 300 0336 or visit:
Citizens Advice – offers free, confidential, independent and impartial advice on a range of issues, including debt, housing, work, benefits and legal issues.
Visit: for information and to find your local Citizens Advice or telephone: 03444 111 444.


Mental Health support

Northumberland Safe Haven
Northumberland Safe Haven provides compassionate, practical, out-of-hours support for people in mental health crisis in Northumberland.
Safe Haven | Everyturn Mental Health
Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust provides mental health, learning disabilities and neuro-rehabilitation services.
Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (


Public Health support

You can find information about a range of support available for mental health and wellbeing in the Public Health section of the website.
The section includes information about:
  • Mental wellbeing
  • Mental health support services
  • Dementia information
  • Suicide prevention

Support for people with a sensory impairment

BID Services Northumberland – offers a range of services and facilities for people with a visual impairment.
Telephone: 01670 293150 or visit:
Vision Northumberland (formerly Northumberland County Blind Association) is a voluntary association working for visually impaired people in Northumberland.
Cerebral Visual Impairment Society is a charity giving support and information to families affected by CVI.
Action for Blind People provides practical and emotional advice and support across England to people who are blind or partially sighted and their friends and family.
Guide Dogs provide a range of information, advice and support for people with sight loss.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is a charity offering information, support and advice to people in the UK with sight loss.
Nystagmus Network is a source of information and support for those diagnosed with nystagmus and their families.
Please click here for further information about the support available for adults living in Northumberland with sight and/or hearing loss and their families.


Support for carers

Carers Northumberland offers advice, support and services to carers in Northumberland.
Telephone: 01670 320025 or visit:
Mobilise offers online support for carers.
ESCAPE Family Support provide support across Northumberland for people who are affected by a loved one’s drugs and alcohol use.
You can contact ESCAPE via their 24/7 helpline: 07702 833 944

Please click here for further information about the support available for carers in Northumberland.


Other useful links

Frontline directory 
Frontline is a community project which helps people to quickly find details on local health and wellbeing services and to contact services through call back and referral options.  All you need to do is enter a postcode for the area you are looking in and the type of help you are looking for and the directory will show you the services available in that area.

Simply Connect
Simply Connect works with a wide range of organisations to help people find local support services and activities that can improve their health and wellbeing. Some of the services they work with include: 
  • Age UK  
  • Action on Hearing Loss Northumberland  
  • Mencap 
  • Friends of Dementia 
  • Carer’s Northumberland 
  • Changing Lives  
  • Citizens Advice  
  • Complex Connexions CIC 
  • MIND Active 
Northumberland Life
Northumberland Life is a local web-based directory of groups and services in and around Northumberland.
HealthWatch Northumberland – gives users of health and social care services a powerful voice - both locally and nationally. Their Find Services section includes information about local urgent and emergency care services. You can also find links to information about care homes and other social services, plus a directory of useful websites.
Telephone: 03332 408 468
or visit:

Ageing Well
The Ageing Well network aims to support people to stay active, connected and well. Click here to visit the Thriving Together website to find information about the Ageing Well Network and details of how people can get involved.
The National Careline
The National Careline is a not-for-profit company offering information about care and support for older people, their carers and their families.
Northumberland Community and Voluntary Action
Northumberland Community and Voluntary Action aims to help community groups and voluntary organisations to succeed by providing information, advice and training to organisations.


Our telecare service can provide you with some additional security for your wellbeing at home. The service is available 24 hours a day 365 days a year. 

You can be provided with telecare equipment which can detect specific events such as if you have a fall, or the presence of smoke in your home, and it will automatically raise the alarm, so appropriate assistance can be provided. 
This is in addition to the community alarm service provided for older and vulnerable people in Northumberland. 
How does it work? 
‘Intelligent’ sensors can be installed in your home which can indicate if you are in danger. You don’t need to take any action yourself for the telecare sensors to send the signal. 
The signals go to the community alarm ‘lifeline unit’ which is connected by a conventional phone socket to a call centre where a trained operator receives the signal. The operator knows whose home the signal is from and can speak to you. They will also know the telephone numbers of your carers, relatives, GP and of the emergency services. They will take appropriate action and will stay on the line to offer reassuring advice until help arrives. 
The team is made up trained call handlers and mobile wardens based in Northumberland. 
Telecare wardens, health and social care professionals can make referrals for telecare equipment. This includes care managers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, keyworkers, specialist social workers, and district nurses. You can also self-refer for the service or refer family & friends. 
If you think you would benefit from a telecare service, you can contact Telecare on 01670 827 100 or email the team via 
You can also speak to your care manager or any of the other health and social care professionals who are involved in your care. 
Our adult social care occupational therapists support adult residents of Northumberland who are experiencing a reduced ability to engage in everyday tasks due to a change in functional ability. 

This includes people who have physical disability, mental health difficulties, learning disability and/or social and emotional difficulties, either from birth or because of accident, illness or ageing.   

The aim of the occupational therapy service is to assess each person referred to identify their individual needs and to then provide intervention to meet those identified needs.   

The range of interventions is as diverse as the people who are referred to the service, some of the most common areas of intervention are –  

  • Supplying of equipment.
  • Carrying out minor works adaptations.
  • Carrying out major adaptations.
  • Assessment of the manual handling needs for those people who need carer support. 

The occupational therapy service is available from 8:30am to 5pm Monday to Thursday, and from 8:30 to 4:30 on Fridays.  If you have an occupational therapist involved with you and need to contact them, please call them via Onecall on 01670 536400. 
The adult social care occupational therapy service accepts referrals from anyone, including individuals themselves, or with their consent, their family members, GPs, district nurses, or any other professional involved with them. A referral can be made to the occupational therapy service by contacting Onecall on 01670 536400. 

The range of equipment available to make life easier for people who have difficulty with daily tasks is increasing all the time.   

A growing range of items are available from high street shops; others can be found in specialist shops or catalogues, or on the internet.   

Health and care professionals can give you advice about equipment which might help you. They can also arrange the loan of any equipment which is necessary for your care and support plan, or which will reduce the need for you to rely on support from other people. 

For larger and more expensive equipment, it is usually best to ask for advice from an occupational therapist (OT), who will know all the problems that can arise, and understand how your health condition may develop.   

If you think you need more help, you can request an assessment of your needs. You can find out more about what an assessment will involve here:  

Advice and needs assessment 

What we ask about in a needs assessment 

Or you can call Onecall on 01670 536400. 

Help getting out and about

If you need help with things like shopping and getting out and about, there are several options to choose from. 

There might be a community or voluntary group in your area who could help you with shopping. You can find out more about groups and services in your area here.  

If you do not have a suitable group in your area, you may want to employ a personal assistant.  

Personal assistants can provide a range of support including help: 

  • With shopping and meal preparation. 
  • To access social and physical activities. 
  • With booking and accompanying to appointments. 
  • Getting to work, college or university.  
  • Personal care such as showering and dressing (although not all PA roles involve personal care). 
  • Befriending 

You can find out more about hiring a personal assistant, and the support we offer you to do so in our information sheets about Direct Payments.  

Click here to go to our information sheet page which includes two sheets about Direct Payments. 

Home care can help people who need care and support at home.

Care and support is the help you may need to cope with day-to-day life because of a disability or disabling long-term health condition. This is not health treatment but support to live as independently as possible.

Many people with care and support needs get the help they need from family and friends, or from their local community You can search for support in your area here.  

Many people also pay privately to get the help they need, for example with household jobs they may find difficult such as cooking, cleaning, washing or to help with personal care tasks, such as eating and bathing.  

You can find and compare registered home care providers by selecting the service you require and entering your postcode on this page here.  

Anyone who needs care and support has a right to advice or a needs assessment.  This includes people who need care and support because of physical or mental health problems or any kind of disability or long-term condition.  

Family members or friends providing care also have similar rights, explained in Information Sheet C4. Please click here to access our information sheet section.
If you have a disability or illness which makes daily life more difficult, you may benefit from having your home adapted to help you carry on with your life independently. 

Examples of adaptations include:

  • Installing a stair-lift so that you can continue to use upstairs rooms.
  • Constructing a shower area which you can get into without a step.
  • Making a wheelchair ramp at the main entrance to your home.
  • Fixing grab rails, hand rails or stair rails to help you to move around safely.

Small adaptations

Many different health and social care professionals can arrange small adaptations such as fixing a grab rail or adapting steps at your property. There is no charge for this service, but we will fund small adaptations only when a professional recommends them to promote independence and avoid, reduce or delay a need for care and support, and we normally apply a cost limit of £1,000. 

We aim to complete work within three weeks of a professional recommendation.  Small adaptations are usually completed by our Home Improvement Service Adaptation and Repair Technicians.

Council and housing association tenants

If you are a tenant your landlord may arrange for adaptations to be carried out on the recommendation of an OT.  You will not have to pay for work that they do as a landlord however some larger adaptations may have to be funded via a Disabled Facilities Grant.

You can read or download a copy of our Information sheet C32 - adaptations to your home:

  • PDF (standard)  
  • PDF (large print) 

Getting expert advice about major adapations

You should get advice about major adaptations from an occupational therapist (OT), who will know all the problems that can arise, and understand how your health condition may develop. You must do this if you want help with the costs but an OT can offer advice even if you will be paying yourself. An OT will visit you within a week of a request if you need adaptations urgently to meet critical needs, and within two months otherwise. If you need help while you wait for an adaptation, your OT will discuss this with you – for instance you might need support from a home care agency until work has been carried out on your home.

When the OT visits, they will discuss with you all the possible solutions to your problems.  For instance there may be equipment that would solve your problems better than adaptations to your home see Information Sheet C16. 

If your home is very ill-suited to your needs, the OT may suggest that the best solution is to move, and can offer advice about housing options. If adaptations are the best solution, the OT will discuss with you in detail how these can be arranged.  Information sheet C32 - Adaptations to your home - provides a summary of the ways you may be able to get financial help.  If you decide to pay for adaptations yourself, you may still be able to get VAT relief.  VAT Notice 701/7 gives details – you can find this by searching on the web, or you can ask your OT to get you a copy.

DFG is means-tested. Whether you are eligible for it depends on the income and savings of both yourself and your partner, if you have one. The outcome of the means testing could be a contribution towards the anticipated cost of the necessary adaptation, unless you are less than 19 years of age and getting child benefit, or if you are getting one of the national means tested social security benefits. 

When your eligibility to funding is confirmed your OT or a housing adaptations surveyor from HIS will source quotes for the necessary adaptation.  The quoted for solution must be the most reasonable and practicable solution to meet your assessed need. 

If you are not eligible to DFG funding or feel you cannot afford the assessed contribution the HIS caseworker can discuss with you other sources of funding however usually people are expected to make their own arrangements, for instance through a second mortgage or a high street loan. 

Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG)

Whether you rent or own your house, you may be entitled to Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) from the county council. Depending on your financial circumstances, you may be eligible for DFG for any adaptations which are necessary to meet any of the following needs:
  • Getting in and out of your home and accessing your garden.
  • Ensuring your home is safe for you and the people you live with.
  • Accessing a bedroom and the main living room.
  • Accessing a toilet, a bath or shower and a washbasin.
  • Being able to cook and prepare food.
  • Being able to control your heating, lighting and electricity.
  • Being able to care for others living with you (e.g. children or another disabled person).
An occupational therapist will assess what adaptations are necessary. We will discuss with you how you would prefer your home to be adapted, but the level of grant will be based on the lowest-cost solution which meets your needs and does not have an unacceptable negative impact on you or other people who live with you.  If you prefer a more expensive solution, you will need to find the extra cost yourself.

DFG is means-tested. Whether you are eligible for it depends on the income and savings of both yourself and your partner, if you have one. You may have to pay part of the cost yourself. However DFG will pay the maximum grant for necessary adaptations if you are less than 19 years old and getting child benefit, or if you are getting one of the national means-tested social security benefits. If someone other than you or your partner is the owner or tenant of the property, the application for DFG will have to come from them, but their finances will not be taken into account in the means test. The maximum grant that can usually be paid is £30,000.

If you would have serious difficulties meeting the difference between the grant amount and the cost of adaptations which we agree are necessary, we will discuss with you other possible sources of funding, or you may be eligible for support from our discretionary grant scheme. However usually people are expected to make their own arrangements, for instance through a second mortgage or a high street loan.

Before we can approve DFG, we will need to see evidence about the tenure of your home, details of any other residents and confirmation that you intend to remain at the property for at least the next five years. If your circumstances later change and you have to move, you may be asked to return any removable adaptations that have a continuing value. In some circumstances you may also have to agree to refund part of the grant if the property is sold within 10 years.

Financial assessments for DFG are carried out by caseworkers from our Home Improvement Service (HIS). The HIS can also manage the actual works on your behalf, including arranging detailed designs, and getting quotes from contractors. You don’t have to use the HIS for this if you don’t want to – you can make your own arrangements, though we can only pay DFG if we are satisfied that your contractors have carried out the work to the right standards. There is a charge if the HIS arranges the works; in many cases this is paid from the grant, so makes no financial difference for you, but we will tell you if it does make a difference, so that you have full information when you make your choice.

You should not begin the work until the grant has been approved, because grant will not be paid for work already carried out.

Discretionary grants for adaptations

In some circumstances, the council can pay additional grants for adaptations, as well as making grants under the statutory Disabled Facilities Grant scheme. 

Grants are made:
  • to support someone to move to alternative more suitable housing, in cases where adapting the person’s existing home would not be the best way to meet the person’s needs, or would be impractical or unreasonably expensive;
  • to cover the extra cost of adaptations that a person needs which are more expensive than the nationally set limit on DFGs;
  • to provide additional support in special circumstances where the means test for a DFG would otherwise make it difficult or impossible for someone to afford adaptations which they need;
  • to make a non-means-tested grant up to a standard amount in cases where a person urgently needs adaptations because of a rapidly-progressing terminal illness;
  • to fund the installation of a ceiling track hoist.
Details of the Council's discretionary grants policy are in the documents below: