Disabled Facilities Grants, or DFGs, are used by people who are living with disability to adapt their homes to better meet their needs.
In 2019, DFGs will have been in existence for 30 years. The Department of Health and Social Care commissioned an independent review of Disabled Facilities Grants, which was published on 10th December 2018.
In this blog, we’ll explore some of the key headlines from the report. But first, we’ll quickly go over what Disabled Facilities Grants are and how they work.
What are Disabled Facilities Grants?
Anyone who is either disabled, or living with someone who is disabled, who is a tenant or homeowner and planning on living in the same property for the next 5 years, is entitled to apply for a DFG.
At the moment, 90% of DFGs are spent on:
- Level access showers
However, the scope of what you could spend a DFG on far exceeds these three areas. The modifications could be any scale: from simple solutions such as a smarter way of controlling your heating and lighting, to a large-scale conversion or extension to your home.
Grants are awarded by local councils and applications are considered on a case-by-case basis. This may include a home visit from an Occupational Therapist to assess your health and physical surroundings.
They are also means tested and depending on your income and the amount of savings you have, you may have to contribute towards the cost of the works. For applications for children under the age of 18, their parents’ or guardians’ income will not be means-tested.
The maximum you can receive in England is £30,000. It’s a little higher if you live in Wales (£36,000) and a little less in Northern Ireland (£25,000). Scotland works differently, and they do not provide equipment support through DFGs. Click here to learn more about how to apply for equipment adaptations in Scotland.
Although the grants are means-tested, if you receive one, it will not affect any other benefits you may receive in any way.
If your application is successful, you’ll either be given a cheque by the council and asked to pass it on to whoever’s carrying out the work, or the council will pay the contractors directly. This may happen in instalments or in one go once the work is finished to a standard the council are happy with. The route of payment will be pre-agreed with the council, claimant and contractor before the work begins.
It’s really important that you do not start work on your property before making your application, as your council may not fund work that has already commenced, even if the modifications are sound in principle.
If you’re carrying out some of the work yourself, you can only claim for the materials – not the labour costs.
If your application for a DFG is turned down, you have the right to appeal.
The University of the West of England’s Independent Review on DFGs
The University of the West of England conducted an independent review of how DFGs are administered and used. Their report, which was commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care was published on 10th December 2018.
The review flags up some significant concerns, as well as recommendations on how the DFG could be better disbursed in future. So, what does the report say? Here are the top headlines we picked up:
- In its current form, the DFG is minimally advertised, and when used, ‘slow, cumbersome and complex’.
- Administering and receiving DFGs could be made easier by integrating services – creating one team per council encompassing Occupational Therapists and Housing Officers, with a single point of contact for the applicants.
- A recommendation to increase focus on preventative measures with earlier referrals, rather than the first contact being made at ‘crisis point’.
- A recommendation for one funding stream that would cater for all adaptations and equipment solutions – big and small.
- A recommendation for an updated means test.
- A recommendation to make stairlifts and palliative care equipment exempt from the means test, as the cost for treating falls caused by stairs and end-of-life care out of the home would exceed the required investment.
- When exploring home adaptations, contributing to the cost of moving to a more suitable properly should also be considered and made possible within the scope of the DFG.
- The maximum amount of DFG that can be claimed per person should be increased in line with both inflation and regional fluctuations in construction costs.
- More effort is required to boost awareness of what’s on offer and how to access the DFG.
- Improved parity of access to the DFG between private and council housing tenants.
- There’s a need for consistent reporting to properly assess the uptake and efficacy of DFGs.
We’ve got our fingers crossed that these recommendations and shortcomings will be seriously considered, and that the DFG will be easier to access for more people, enabling them to live well, independently.
If you’ve got any questions about making adaptations to your home, from hoisting to grab rails, please do get in touch.