Disabled Facilities Grants
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DFGs – a cost-effective intervention
More than 40,000 people a year receive a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) to adapt their home, make it safe and accessible.
This figure is expected to rise to 85,000 by the end of the decade, with an increase in government funding.
It is a very cost-effective intervention, which helps to reduce hospital admissions and speed up discharges; cut domiciliary care costs; and delay the necessity to move into residential care.
Research has found that people who have had grant-funded adaptations and subsequently move into care, do so some four years later than those who have not had adaptations carried out.
Yet older and disabled people who could be eligible are still often unaware of the existence of DFGs, and provision is patchy.
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Many DFGs are delivered by Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs)
DFGs are awarded by local authorities, and more than half of the total are delivered by home improvement agencies (HIAs), also known as Care & Repair, a network of 200 organisations across England which are either based in local authorities or housing associations, or else function as standalone charities.
You can find your nearest branch by visiting the umbrella group website, Foundations (it will open in a new browser window)
Widening the scope of grant expenditure
In some areas, notably Knowsley, Cornwall, and Ealing in London, the joining-up of services through the BCF has led to significant beneficial results.
The latest comprehensive spending review promised a continued DFG funding stream for the next five years, from £395 million in 2015-16; £431 million in the current year, 2017-18; through to £500 million in 2019-20.
Some local authorities are now using this funding more innovatively, through a mechanism known as the Regulatory Reform Order 2002. This gives local authorities a general power to introduce policies to help people with repairs and adaptations to their homes, either through grants or loans.
Increasing the range of adaptations available under the Disabled Facilities Grants legislation is one way it can be used.
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Some examples of DFG funds used flexibly to keep people safe and well at home
Hospital Discharge Grants can pay for the sort of tasks that can enable someone to be safely discharged after treatment. So this might be anything from boiler repairs to decluttering and deep cleaning.
They can be used for Safe and Secure Grants, supplied to low income homeowners and tenants, to pay for minor adaptations or repairs to reduce accidents and promote independence. Sometimes, Safe and Secure Grants are only available alongside a DFG.
Handyperson services can also be funded. Amongst the tasks commonly paid for are accident prevention checks and subsequent minor repairs; security checks and subsequent installation of locks, door chains and spy holes; small building repairs and adaptations.
Making homes dementia-friendly – the Prime Minister may have changed, but the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge is still ongoing. Using DFG funds to support people with dementia to live at home safely for as long as possible is one of the features of the programme.
If it isn’t possible to adapt a person’s home to make it safe and accessible for them, a relocation grant can help with moving to another, more suitable property.
Where the works proposed for a Disabled Facilities Grant cost more than the maximum allowed, the local authority may in some instances “top up” from other resources. In the past, this would mean a separate application with different criteria, but with the DFG integrated into the Better Care Fund, a single, streamlined application is possible.
What you need to know about DFGs
• You can apply for a grant to adapt your home, so that you can continue to live there.
• Disabled Facilities Grants (DFG) are awarded by the local authority if they judge that your home needs adapting in order to meet your needs, and that the necessary works are both reasonable and practical.
• You can apply whether you are a homeowner or tenant; but you need to be able to certify that you intend to occupy the premises as your only, or main, residence throughout the grant period, which is currently five years.
• A landlord can apply on behalf of their tenant.
• Disabled Facilities Grants can be used to pay for works such as widening doorways and installing ramps for wheelchair access; improving or installing a suitable heating system; altering heating or lighting controls; providing access to bathroom facilities, either by means of a stair lift or a new ground floor bathroom; improving access to and around the home to make it easier to care for a disabled resident.
• An occupational therapist (OT) will visit your home to assess your needs and the adaptations required.
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How much is a Disabled Facilities Grant?
• The amount of grant you get will vary, depending on your income, any savings, and what the council assesses as reasonable financial outgoings (actual expenditure is not considered). Unless you are applying for a grant in respect of a child who is under 19, in which case it will not be means-tested in this way.
• Savings under £6000 are disregarded. If you have a partner, your joint income will be assessed. Some benefits, such as Income Support and Disability Living Allowance, are also disregarded for the purpose of calculating the grant. The amount of grant could be anywhere from zero to 100% of the cost of the works.
• The maximum amount of Disabled Facilities Grant that councils are obliged to pay is £30,000 in England, per application, and £36,000 per application in Wales. They do have the discretion to pay more, if the eligible works cost more than this sum. In Scotland, there is a different system, and Scottish residents should contact their local social services department, to find out what grants are available.
• If you receive a Disabled Facilities Grant, it won’t have an effect on any other benefits you receive.
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How to apply?
• To apply, contact the housing department or environmental health department at your local authority, and ask them to send you an application form. Not sure of your local authority? You can identify it by putting in your postcode on this page on the DirectGov website. It is very important that you don’t start any work before you are awarded your grant. The council must give you a decision within 6 months of the date you apply. If the works are major, you will also need to apply for planning permission and/or building regulations approval.
• The grant may either be paid in full when the work has been satisfactorily completed, or it may be paid in instalments at agreed stages during the works. The council may give you a cheque, or pay the contractor directly. You agree these arrangements with the council at the outset.
Foundations professional web portal for Disabled Facilities Grants
As part of a drive to reduce delays in processing Disabled Facilities Grants, Foundations, the umbrella group for Home Improvement Agencies, has launched a web portal to bring home adaptation surveyors and contractors together.
The DFG Tenders – Home Adaptation Portal uses an advanced customer relationship management platform to speed up the process of awarding contracts.
Following a pilot scheme with 20 HIAs, it is now fully operational.
It currently takes an average of 34 weeks from assessment to completion of works. The portal immediately cuts that by four weeks, and is expected to speed things up further, as it streamlines the process and allows surveyors to handle more DFG projects.
The prototype was first developed by Foundations’ director Paul Smith while he was working at Cannock Chase District Council, when it won a Home Improvements Innovations and Achievement Award.
How the portal works: a step-by-step guide
1. Schedule of standard works items is produced for standard adaptations
2. Local builders submit prices for each item
3. Surveyor inputs quantities for each job
4. System generates instant quotes from every contractor
5. Surveyor chooses successful quote, creating instant email to contractor
6. Contractor completes job and can take photos of the work and upload them to the portal for the surveyor to view
You can see a video that describes how the DFG Tenders – Home Adaptation Portal works on the Foundations website here (link will open in a new browser window)
Some key statistics about Disabled Facilities Grants
• about 40,000 people a year receive a grant to help adapt their home
• people aged over 60 account for 71% of grants
• 22% go to those aged between 20 and 60, and 7% to children and young people
• Most grants go to owner-occupiers (61%), followed by those in social housing (32%) and private rented accommodation (7%)
Further reading and resources
DFG analytics – benchmarking and measuring quality
Who is providing excellence in Disabled Facilities Grants? Check out the finalists for the Healthy Housing Awards here
More funds have been allocated to provision of DFGs – you can read about it here
How long should you wait for a DFG? Ombudsman’s judgement on Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council