Staff have worked across the county on small but essential tasks such as changing light bulbs, fitting smoke alarms, and securing carpets to make homes safe for people at risk – but all that is set to change.
Last week, Councillor Ruth George, Whaley Bridge’s Labour representative, took to Facebook to slam the decision to end the service.
She said: “I’m appalled that Derbyshire Conservatives have chosen to abolish this brilliant service at the end of March with no consultation, no democratic decisions, and no information until the last minute – even to the hard-working staff who’ve gone above and beyond, working through the pandemic to help people who couldn’t get help any other way.
“The Handy Van service has been a lifeline. Helping people stay safe at home, return home from hospital and preventing falls and accidents, all for free. Giving people a better quality of life and saving our over-stretched care services even more work.”
She added: “Derbyshire Conservatives claimed at last year’s election that they were helping more elderly people stay in their own homes, but instead they’re cutting all the services that help people do that.
“If there was any democratic process, I would be fighting it, but there isn’t. The decision has been made behind closed doors, hoping the vulnerable people who need it wont complain too loudly. Just when we think the Conservatives can stoop no lower, they do.”
The council has sought to justify its decision by pointing out that between September 2020 and August 2021, the Handy Van made fewer than 600 home visits in the High Peak.
It says that more than 40 per cent of cases involve fire safety checks, which will DFRS will continue to deliver. Another 40 per cent comes from fitting safety alarms, which has now been contracted to a private company.
Around 17 per cent of the work has been DIY practical tasks, and the council is now considering alternative delivery models, with some jobs already delivered by local partners in the CVS partners.
A spokesperson for the council 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.
“As part of this joint working, DFRS supports and maintains the fleet of eight handy vans. 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.”
They added: “We’re 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.”