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