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Review recommends changes to 'cumbersome' disabilities grant

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A government-commissioned review has recommended sweeping changes to how the disabled facilities grant (DFG) operates after it emerged a sharp rise in investment had not led to more people being supported.

Despite DFG funding increasing from £220m in 2014-15 to £473m in 2017-18 (115%), experts at the University of the West of England said in a report published yesterday that overall funding levels rose by just 13% over the period due to a decline in council contributions.

Completions rose from an average of 123 to 141 per authority in 2016-17, a rise of 15% which takes the levels back to the amount achieved in 2010-11.

The review into the grant, which funds repairs, improvements and adaptations to homes, also found the delivery is often “slow and cumbersome” with too many people dropping out of the process because they must contribute to the costs. Restrictions on upper cost limits also result in ineffective solutions, the review found.

The report also said a high proportion of grants are awarded to registered providers when many disabled people live in the private rented sector. Council stock also remains outside DFG allocations, making planning more difficult.

The DFG has been part of the better care fund since 2015 and the report said health and wellbeing boards could play a more strategic role in how it is used but added there needs to be a focus on housing and not just health and care outcomes.

Among a series of recommendations, the report called for ‘housing and health partnership boards’ to be established in each area as a requirement of DFG funding with representatives from housing, health and social care.

Also, health and wellbeing boards would report separately on DFG funding using the metric of ‘the number of people helped to remain independent at home’.

The report said transformation funding equivalent to 1% of DFG should be made available to promote more affective joint working between organisations and relevant departments.

It added the current DFG distribution formula is “a confusing mix of methodologies and historical allocations” and should be replaced in time for the next comprehensive spending review.

The DFG means test should also be aligned with social care eligibility, subject to what is included in the social care green paper, the report said.

Responding to the review, County Councils Network spokesman for health and social care David Williams (Con) said patients in two-tier areas, compared to those in county unitary areas, are 10% more likely to be delayed in leaving hospital because they are awaiting adaptations.

He said: “It is clear that more needed to be done to promote closer collaboration between housing and social care councils, both for the benefit of the individual and for the wider health service.

“Therefore, CCN welcomes the review accepting our arguments and recommending an integrated county-wide approach to the disabled facilities grant. Many counties already follow this ‘goldilocks’ approach, and it is imperative we learn from these experiences.”

The government said it is considering the findings.

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