This Commons Library briefing paper provides an overview of Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) and other help aimed at securing essential home adaptations.Jump to full report >>
Mandatory Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) are available from local authorities in England and Wales and the Housing Executive in Northern Ireland. They are issued subject to a means test and are available for essential adaptations to give disabled people better freedom of movement into and around their homes, and to give access to essential facilities within the home. Scotland operates a different scheme of assistance.
Funding for DFGs in England is now channelled into the Better Care Fund (BCF) which consists of pooled resources from a number sources, including NHS England. One of the aims of the BCF is to achieve improved integration of care and support services. DFG funding in England for 2015/16 was £220m and increased to £394 million in 2016/17.
Research into DFGs has highlighted pressures around funding compared to levels of need for adaptation works. A contributing factor to growing demand for adaptations is identified as the lack of a requirement to build new homes to Lifetime Home standards. Research carried out by the London School of Economics on behalf of Habinteg Housing and Papworth Trust, No Place Like an Accessible Home (July 2016), contains a ‘cautious’ estimate of at least 1 in 6 households with an identified need who do not have all the accessibility features they need (300,000 households, including 140,000 working age households). The benefits of having accessible housing are identified as ‘making all the difference in terms of feeling in control, safer, having a social life, and health and wellbeing.’
DCLG commissioned the Building Research Establishment (BRE) to carry out detailed work on the DFG allocation process and means testing. This research (published in February 2011) estimated that that the total amount required to cover grants for all of those who were, theoretically, eligible was £1.9 billion at 2005 prices, representing more than ten times the total amount of DFG funding allocated in England in 2009/10 (£157m). Subsequent studies have identified a shortage of DFG funding which manifests in customers having to wait for long periods before adaptation works are carried out.
Various suggestions for change have been made, including the provision of DFGs and other aids and equipment through one body by an integrated team; funding adaptations through equity loans rather than grants with some safety net provision; and increased use of discretionary spending on DFGs.
On 14 December 2016 the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) launched a formal inquiry on housing for disabled people. The inquiry will look at whether the availability of accessible and adaptable housing, and the support services around it, is fulfilling disabled people’s rights to live independently. The inquiry will cover England, Scotland and Wales and is expected to report in 2018.
Commons Briefing papers SN03011
Author: Wendy Wilson