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  • Writer's pictureAdam Thomas

Can We Talk About Costs?

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

Our good friend Kate Sheehan wrote a detailed opinion piece in a recent edition of the OT Magazine, addressing the continuing problems that OTs and accessible kitchen designers experience in funding kitchen adaptations. Calling current knowledge ‘limited and outdated’, Kate urges OTs to assess need first, and fight for the adaptation that the client needs.

Even the most basic standard kitchen costs around £10,000 for furniture alone. Worktops, appliances, flooring and installation are added to this figure. The sad truth is that furniture supplied at this end of the market is just not up to the extra water spills, knocks and scrapes that most accessible kitchens experience during their lifetime. For example, remember that spinal injury often affects hand grip, which means that squeezing water out of a sponge to keep worktops dry becomes difficult. And serious scratches to cupboard doors and end panels are unhygienic and allow water to seep into the material. In my working life I have been to visit dozens of clients whose initial kitchen has literally fallen to pieces within a couple of years, because corners were cut and there was little or no budget for a robust, well-designed solution with a properly designed sink area and worktops with waterfall edges that contains spills.

I am specifically addressing Solicitors and Case Managers when I make this point - we are still seeing clients with multi-million pound compensation settlements being awarded £15,000 for a kitchen adaptation. Which is an impossible brief for an OT or kitchen designer, and either means that cheap, standard kitchen furniture will be used, so that our clients will not be able to access their kitchen to make a hot drink or a meal. Or that the kitchen will last just a few years before it has to be refitted, at enormous expense and at the psychological cost of the client as they experience another period of disruption, dependence on others, and loss of control.

Let me be clear. Kitchen refits can be extremely disruptive and should be minimised, especially for disabled people who cannot improvise a cooking facility in another part of the home, or conjure up additional cash to fix problems at a later date.

As Kate states

“Eating is a necessity as it supports our body to function physiologically. The preparation and cooking of food supports the development of social skills, physical function, cognitive abilities and mental health wellbeing, it is therefore a purposeful and meaningful occupation.”

This is the right focus for an experienced OT. As a designer and a wheelchair-user myself, I would also add that whilst toileting has been identified as an essential daily need, the need for daily independent eating and drinking has only recently been acknowledged. It is still not being given the same weight, even though it sustains human life. No one, except a disenfranchised disabled person it seems, would be expected to accept a room in their house that they could not access. However in spite of 40 years of campaigning for equal rights in this country, equal access in the kitchen is still hindered by cost.

A few final points on costs; independent access to the kitchen can save billions in home care costs, and provide much-needed privacy for clients who may not wish to have care assistants in their home all the time. A high quality accessible kitchen may cost twice as much as a basic DIY shed kitchen, but it will last at least four times as long, substantially reducing maintenance costs after the initial investment.

Kate says that

“Cost should not be at the forefront of the assessment…”

Sadly, apart from a handful of exceptions, ‘cost’ has been the enduring barrier to good quality design for my entire working life. And, at the moment, costs are rocketing due to the global supply chain disruption in recent years, therefore a fixed cost approach is even less appropriate. Read Kate's article in the OT Magazine using this link.

If you are a personal injury solicitor or case manager, what price do you put on an accessible kitchen? Are you still using the £15,000 figure? Do you get a quote each time you put together a claim for a client, and does this quote include everything, including installation?

I would love the opportunity to work with some professionals in this field to come up with a new costed standard for this type of work. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me by email for a constructive conversation.


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