Disabled people face long waits for vital adaptations to make their homes more accessible, according to new research by leading disability charity Leonard Cheshire.
67% of councils have reported disabled people not having crucial home adaptations completed within the 12-month deadline and 23% of councils report disabled people waiting over two years for completion of works.
The study found how demand for home adaptations through Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) rose by 27% in the four years between 2015 and 2019 with delays been felt across the country.
Crucial works such as widening doors, putting in grab rails or making kitchens and bathrooms accessible allow disabled people to wash, cook and clean safely and often more independently.
The works can reduce or in some cases remove the need for social care. Without changes to make housing sufficiently accessible, people are at risk of physical injury and mental health problems.
By law, councils are required to approve or reject DFG applications within six months and then ensure that works are completed within 12 months.
Almost half of councils (48%) had at least one example of missing the initial six-month deadline to approve or deny completed DFG applications.
The figure could have been even higher because some councils did not provide this information.
Rene Gollenberg-Ryder, 38, lives in Bristol and uses a wheelchair.
The former children’s social worker has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), which means she endures frequent dislocations and injuries. When she could no longer get upstairs to the bathroom after a series of falls, Rene enquired about a Disabled Facilities Grant in 2016.
However, several delays meant that work was not completed until years afterwards.
She explained: “It was a very stressful period before the bathroom was done. For three years I didn’t have a shower in my own home. It was really hard to wash my hair in a bucket while sitting on the commode in the living room.”
Adding: “Unfortunately, it took a long time before the work started. Builders overcharged the council and did a really poor job. A few months on, it is falling apart and there are ongoing issues with the builders’ work being of a very low standard.”
Director of policy at Leonard Cheshire, Gemma Hope, said: “Disabled Facilities Grants are vital for disabled people. Underfunded councils need more resources to ensure that demand for these vital adaptations is met, so that people can have homes that meet their individual needs.
“We want councils to ensure disabled people wait no longer than eighteen months for essential adaptations to their home.”
Several people who have experienced the DFG process also reported that they found the earlier application process challenging.
An online survey conducted by Leonard Cheshire and Disability Horizons in spring 2020 revealed that 20 out of 35 disabled people (57%) found filling in a DFG application ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’.