Downside of the DFG scheme

Aug 22, 2016

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The Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) scheme can provide invaluable financial support to adapt your home, making it safer and more accessible for you to live in. However, it does not always work as well as it should. Here, Jayne Winters tells us about her failures to successfully navigate the system

For seven years, I have been pulling myself upstairs backwards on my bottom: Why, you may ask?

Well I have a functional neurological disorder, which means along with a multitude of other symptoms I am unable to move my legs or sit up unsupported or strapped in, and for some bizarre reason this is classed as a mental health condition, so does not qualify for adult services support.

My home is my own, I still pay a small mortgage on it. The only bathroom, toilet and bedrooms are upstairs. I live alone since the passing of my partner 12 years ago, and I have no family contact.

Wrongly advised that I wasn’t eligible for a DFG

When I was first ill, my designated mental health OT came out and assessed my home. All she could do was order a bath lift (the bath is upstairs and I have no shower) and put a few grab rails around the place. There was no mention of a DFG. After a while, I raised the subject with the OT, only to be told that I couldn’t access the scheme because it was for people with recognised physical conditions, and therefore not available under mental health.

Now my symptoms and needs are exactly the same as many who have physical conditions, so I thought this was discriminatory, and after a few years, I was strong enough to tackle this and finally wrote to the DFG people directly come asking why I could not access their scheme when my needs were the same as those with a recognised physical condition. Their reply was that I could access it, because it is done on need not diagnosis.

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Because I live alone, I am expected to live on one floor

Armed with this, I went full pelt to the OT, MP, corporate complaints manager at the council etc, and finally she agreed, though she decided that I have TOO MUCH HOUSE FOR ONE PERSON so they will only adapt the lower level.

To do that would mean:

• I have to lose my original 1930s open fire, which I still use (indoor BBQ whilst heating the house saves a fortune in cooking bills, especially as I have a free supply of wood from a few places around me!)

• my living room would become bathroom and bedroom. This is overlooked by flats and is at the front of the house, so I would have to close the curtains every time I changed my inco pads or clothes.

• the ‘bathroom’ would be a cubicle about two inches larger than my wheelchair, with a shower curtain around the top half, meaning again I have to keep the curtain closed; I would have to sit over the loo to shower; and not to mention sleeping in the same room as the toilet…

• my living area would have to go into what is presently my dining room/scooter park, which means the scooter would be relegated to outdoors.

• scooter being outdoors would make me housebound or dependent on others to get me back indoors, as I physically cannot get my wheelchair up the ramp alone. Wheelchair services will not provide an electric one, because I don’t have a ‘physical’ condition.

• my upper level would become a useless space.

• my buildings insurance would be invalid as it calls for you to check all areas for signs of damp/damage regularly so problems can be sorted before they become major and costly. I can’t trust carers to do this and wouldn’t be able to do it myself.

• I would have to lose my dining table which my late partner bought with his first pay cheque, so it is special to me, and which I use for home meetings (I volunteer as vice chair of a grass roots user-led disability organisation helping people shape the life they want to live rather than the one others think they should live).

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No way to find out how much DFG I will receive before drawing up plans

I have refused this as getting out of my house independently is crucial to me wellbeing and life style.

I opted for an enhanced scheme but because of this, I now have to sort out everything myself: building control, surveyor, architect plans, structural plans etc. and get two quotes BEFORE the council will tell me how much DFG will contribute.

It is like me saying to you to organise a party, book a venue and caterer and only when you have done that will I tell you the budget, or whether it is a birthday party for a family of six or a wedding do for 600. Absolutely ridiculous and unworkable!

I have had three architects each draw plans which do not suit my needs and who will not change them (one had me sleeping in the back room but my clothes in the front room, on the grounds that a carer could bring them to me. Now where’s the independence in that?

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Borrowing to finance works myself now seems the only option

I have now given up. I’m getting a builder to square off the back of my house and put a through-floor lift in paid for by myself (mortgage overdraft). The other things, like a wet room, rise and fall kitchen, wider doors etc will have to wait till I have the funds to do them.

DFG provides basics only

The system in my view is set up to give the basics without consideration to the life of the person. Their scheme would be ok for someone close to the end of life, but for an active person in their 40s, it is just not acceptable.

Now if I had a child or partner they would not have hesitated to put in a lift, so that I could get upstairs. It is discriminating against single people. Also as I am doubly incontinent, I asked about having a shower hose by the toilet so that I could sit on the loo and clean my bottom rather than have to completely strip and bathe/shower, ….they do this for people whose religion says they must wash not wipe, but not for anyone else! So they do it for those who on physical grounds don’t need it come yet don’t do it for those who do! Totally wrong, and again discriminating, on grounds of religious belief this time.

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Further resources

You can read more about applying for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) here

Share your experiences by adding a comment at the bottom of the page!


7 Responses to “Downside of the DFG scheme”

  1. Fresh August 23, 2016 at 12:56 pm #

    Jayne, that sounds like a complete nightmare and so unjust and unfair!
    My own experience of talking about applying for a DFG, ended after very little time had passed. I have a progressive condition and also, after having struggled (but not thought much of it) for years with the tiny hallway and ‘regular-style’ bathroom, I decided that the time had come for changes….. Applying for a DFG, I was told, would take months, maybe even a year. In the end and due to circumstances, I managed to get the funds together myself and I’m poorer now but haven’t looked back!
    Good luck Jayne……if you can somehow fund it yourself, I’d go ahead.

  2. Barry Mardell August 24, 2016 at 11:05 am #

    Aside from the inflexibility of DFG’s I am surprised that you are still using incontinence pads. I was offered to have a supra pubic catheter early in my journey living a deterioration in bodily functions then later I was offered to have a colostomy. Both procedures liberating in that I could go anywhere at any time with confidence. I have one arm so the colostomy was positioned so that I could change pouches with ease and I wear baggy trousers so that my leg bag can lay on my lap when in my wheelchair. Colostomy and urine bags are exempt prescription charges. I hope this is of help to those who cannot face the indignity of using inco-pads.

    • Frances August 24, 2016 at 1:57 pm #

      Thanks for taking the time to post here, Barry – useful advice, I’m sure, for people managing incontinence.

  3. Marcus August 24, 2016 at 11:23 am #

    It’s a very inadequate provision. Both my parents – particularly father (very crippled; Alzheimer’s) – needed, I thought, a stair lift and ground-floor bathroom. I first approached the council last Nov/Dec by email and got nowhere for months: no replies to emails from Adult SS, who when I eventually got them by calling and being passed from pillar to post didn’t seem to have a clue about DFGs (I asked for an application form: turns out there isn’t one but was told two or three times ‘We’ll send one out’). The Council website contains no info about DFGs (discouraging applications?) so I could only keep asking how we applied. After five months of being ‘stonewalled’ I got the name and email address for the person in charge of this provision from anOT and sent a complaint email quoting relevant legislation and the Local Gov Ombudsman.

    This did the trick. The bathroom’s been squeezed into the utility room, which was needed for the fridge/washer/micro due to a very small kitchen, when an extension off this would have been better – but I understand that this isn’t about wants but needs, and we were given no choice.

    While we now have the lift and bathroom the quotes process has been inefficient (eg, council wanted three quotes for chair from their regular providers – but didn’t impose a time-limit on receipt of the quote; two visited quickly but one was going to be a month after the request, which I intervened over, but then others took weeks to submit their quotes after the home visit, pushing the installation back.) These are basic errors of commissioning. Surely you advise quoters that they have, say, 15 working days from receipt of the request to visit the property and submit the quote (unless the householder delays)? Or why not just use one local supplier, having negotiated a bulk discount, and monitor the contract? Re the bathroom, council used its regular builder, but what should have taken around seven/eight working days took more than double that as workers would frequently only do a few hours a day, so household disruption was extended and use of the facility deferred.

    We are grateful for the provision: it’s just a shame that unnecessary delay and inefficiency has characterised the whole nine-month process.

    • Frances August 24, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

      Thank you for taking the time to share your experience of the DFG process, Marcus. It isn’t very encouraging when even the council doesn’t seem to know about them. I’m glad you persevered, and eventually got the basics, at least, for your parents – I’m sure lots of people give up along the way…

  4. Ann. Boden August 25, 2016 at 4:41 pm #

    I am a 52 year old widow I am an amputee also waiting for my other leg to be amputated
    I am unable to go out in my garden as its half decked which is so slippy, the other half gravel – chair won’t move on it. I also don’t have a safe fire exit out of the back as I cannot get out of back gate, so if I had a fire I’m goosed. I’ve tried every thing poss to apply for a grant but no one no where will help me !!!

    • Frances August 25, 2016 at 6:07 pm #

      That’s not a good situation, Ann – I will do my best to help. Have you applied for a Disabled Facilities Grant and been turned down?

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