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The government’s decision to finally abolish the means test for the disabled facilities grant (DFG) has left families who care for disabled children across England feeling triumphant but not satisfied.

The DFG is used to pay for vital adaptations such as stair lifts, ramps and downstairs bathrooms to make it easier to care for disabled children in the home. But under the means test, very few families, including those on low incomes, qualified for the financial support. This was a ludicrous situation because the means test did not take into account real life expenditures like mortgage repayments. The decision to abolish the means test will help, but is not enough for many families.

Take the Stewart-Paul family. The two sons have autism, and the younger one also has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. He will lose the ability to walk by the age of 13 and at present his mother struggles to carry him up and down the stairs.

As a result of their sons’ conditions, an occupational therapist assessed the Stewart-Pauls as needing 68,000 worth of adaptations to their home. These included a downstairs bedroom and bathroom along with hoisting equipment and the widening of doorways for wheelchair access. As a result of the decision to abolish the means test, the family will be eligible for the grant, but will still be expected to find 43,000, a huge amount which is more than their joint annual income.

The decision to abolish the means test was announced in October. It brings the situation in England in line with Northern Ireland and Wales but there is still a discrepancy over figures; Wales offers families up to 30,000 compared with England’s 25,000. Many would like to see the grant raised to a figure which reflects the true situation many families face; 50,000 is thought a realistic sum.

The abolition will take effect from December. We hope that raising the grant value will also soon feature on the government’s agenda.

Faiza Fareed is editor of Viewpoint, the learning difficulty magazine published by Mencap

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