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What are DFGs?

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.

DFG funding in England

Central government funding for DFGs in England was £468 million in 2018-19; this has increased from £220 million in 2015-16. At the 2015 Spending Review, the Government committed to increase funding for DFGs to £500 million in 2019-20.

Is the funding adequate?

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 (now the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) 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.

Equality and Human Rights Commission inquiry

In May 2018, the Equality and Human Rights Committee published the report of an inquiry into housing for disabled people. The report noted the increased funding for DFGs but highlighted several issues, including “unacceptable bureaucracy and delay” in getting adaptations approved and installed. It also noted that disabled people in the private rented sector face problems, with landlords often reluctant to allow adaptations. The Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee has called on the Government to review the DFG system.

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