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What are DFGs?

Mandatory 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.

DFG funding and delivery

Funding in England is 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. Central government funding for DFGs in England is £573 million in 2021-22.

Research into DFGs has highlighted pressures around funding compared to levels of need for adaptation works. This can translate into long waits for adaptations. The 2019-20 English Housing Survey report on home adaptations recorded 53% (1 million) households who do not have all the adaptations they need, an increase from 45% in 2014-15.

An external review of DFGs commissioned by the Government which reported in December 2018 identified several challenges for DFGs, including:

  • A reduction in local authority contributions meaning that increased central government funding hadn’t resulted in as many people being helped.
  • Limited analysis of local needs and demand, and limited advertising of DFGs for fear of stimulating demand.
  • Complexities within the delivery system.
  • Restrictive upper limits on grant. High levels of ‘drop outs’ due to a requirement to contribute.
  • Tenure inequalities – relatively few grants are issued to private sector tenants.
  • A need for DFGs to evolve in line with changing expectations and advances in information technology to remain relevant.

The Government’s National Disability Strategy (July 2021) says that, following the 2018 review, new guidance for local authorities in England will be published on the effective delivery of DFGs during 2021. The aim is to accelerate delivery of home adaptations in England and Wales “by improving local delivery of the Disabled Facilities Grant.”

Building new accessible homes

A contributing factor to growing demand for adaptations is identified as the lack of a requirement to build new homes to lifetime home standards. This can reduce the need for future adaptation work.

The Government’s National Disability Strategy (July 2021) records an increase in the proportion of homes in England developed “with key accessible features” from 5% in 2009 to 9% in 2018. The Strategy includes a commitment to take “immediate steps” to:

  • boost the supply of housing for disabled people by raising accessibility standards for new homes, increasing the supply of affordable homes, including supported housing, and accelerating the adaptation of existing homes by improving the efficiency of local authority delivery of the Disabled Facilities Grant
  • extend disabled tenants’ rights on accessibility
  • ensure the safety of disabled people in buildings, for when there are emergencies

A response to the consultation on raising accessibility standards for new homes, which closed in December 2020, will be issued by December 2021.

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