A new report has revealed what the average local authority achieves through disabled facilities grants (DFGs) – and key factors in maximising the grant’s ability to help people to live in their own home.
The study, published by Foundations, the Government-funded national body for home improvement agencies, looked at how councils delivered DFGs during 2018-19.
It comes as record amounts of funding are allocated for DFGs via the Better Care Fund. £505m was allocated in 2019-20 and the same for 2020-21.
Key findings include:
• DFG funding was used to support around 53,500 people in England, primarily via adaptations
• The average local authority spent £1.2m, adapted 110 homes and kept 11 people out of care homes
• On average, each council had five FTE staff dedicated to administering DFGs, spent £9,750 per DFG and took 116 days from grant application to completing the work
• Councils that use a home improvement agency, charge a fee to provide additional support and have a Regulatory Reform Order policy in place are 25% more efficient at delivering DFGs
The study, Disabled Facilities Grants: Structures & Staffing, involving more than 200 local authorities, looked at each element in the DFG process to see how ‘inputs’ lead to the ‘outputs’ needed to achieve the desired goals.
It found there was a generally positive correlation between the number of staff employed and the number of homes adapted but it also comes down to the type of staff employed.
For example, an increasing number of district councils are employing occupational therapists and trusted assessors. One authority reported they had cut their backlog of DFG assessments from 450 to 130 within a year as a result of bringing an OT into the team.
The report also shows councils that use a home improvement agency – either in-house or commissioned externally – and charge a fee (that’s included in the grant) are able to support more DFG spend than those that don’t.
Commenting on the report, Paul Smith, director of Foundations, said: “Through our research we have found that councils that have a home improvement agency, charge a fee and have a regulatory reform order are more efficient and effective at delivering DFGs.”
Adding: “But overall more staff are needed to fulfil the demand that is out there. That’s because despite annual increases to the DFG budget, demand for adaptations has often outstripped supply and this is set to continue as the population ages.
“It’s therefore vital that local authorities do everything they can to maximise the impact of DFG to support the most vulnerable people – it’s a key part of the prevention and early intervention agenda.”