The Chancellor’s confirmation yesterday that an additional £55m is being ploughed into disabled facilities grants (DFG) while small businesses will receive rates relief is largely welcome news for mobility equipment providers.
Philip Hammond announced the DFG cash injection in addition to a £650m boost for social care funding for English councils, designed to ease “immediate pressures” on local authorities providing care for elderly and disabled people.
DFG allows disabled people to get a grant from their council to make changes to their homes which includes installing ramps, stairlifts and adaptable bathrooms.
Yesterday marked the second consecutive budget where extra funding has been committed to DFG, on top of existing record levels of funding, according to the national body for home improvement agencies, Foundation.
Unsurprisingly then, a number of leading disability charities have welcomed the additional funding. The cash is good news for the mobility providers that supply local councils with equipment and services.
However, not all companies will see the benefits. Councils are increasingly striking exclusive deals with mobility providers to supply equipment in an effort to streamline and speed-up the DFG delivery and installation process.
In many cases, a person applying for a DFG would have a tender sent out and a maximum of three different companies would visit the person to find out their specific needs. The companies would then send their quotes to the council and the council would then decide. But now many councils are selecting a single, preferred provider to carry out DFG installations.
There is also still concern over the delays in processing DFG applications, which has seen many elderly and disabled people left waiting weeks for vital equipment to be installed in their homes.
Now that the additional cash has been allocated, experts say it is time for local authorities to work more collaboratively with their supply chain to improve the delivery of home adaptations.
Paul Dossett, head of local government at Grant Thornton UK, welcomed the money coming in grant form as opposed to council tax, but criticised the social care funding boost for being a “short term solution”.
“Demand for this service means that this cost will continue every year for at least a decade. So while this funding may allow a year’s relief, the upcoming Green Paper and Spending Review need to resolve the longer term policy and tax issues at root or we risk seeing services collapse.”
Glen Garrod, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said: “It is…welcome that more money for the Disabilities Funding Grant is available, which is £10 million more than the Chancellor announced in his speech.
“It is positive the Government is making more money available for social care overall. We must have a long-term funding solutions for adult social care and the Government must bring these forward in the green paper urgently.”
Meanwhile, Alzheimer’s Society chief executive, Jeremy Hughes, said £650m could “prop up the broken social care system”, but “only just staves off total collapse”.
Business Rates Relief
Mr Hammond confirmed yesterday that there would be £900m in business rates relief for small businesses and £650m to rejuvenate the high street, which was originally announced on 26 October.
Small mobility dealers with rateable values of less than £51,000 will get a discount on their rates bill for two years from April 2019.
The Treasury’s rates relief claims it could reduce small business’s rates bill by a third and said that 90% of small retailers will benefit from the new measures.
Most mobility retailers, whose thin margins make it tough to cover overheads as it is, will likely welcome the rates relief, with firms expecting to enjoy several thousand pounds off their bill a year.
But John Webber, head of rating at Colliers International, said the firm calculated that if the cost of the new measures is £900 million over two years, as announced, then the reliefs will affect 100,000 properties rather than the 500,000 that has been suggested.
He added: “Given about 60% of these 100,000 properties are not pure retail (following the government’s definition), that means they will impact on around 40,000 retail units out of 1.9m rateable properties in the UK. This will not have a major impact on the high street as suggested.”
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