Councils are breaching legal time limits for providing disabled people with grants to adapt their homes, driving up care costs, according to research by Leonard Cheshire Disability.
The charity found that, on average, almost 2,500 disabled people a year waited over the time limit of a year to receive their disabled facilities grant (DFG) after it had been approved, between 2011-12 and 2013-14.
The research, based on Freedom of Information requests returned by 245 of the 360 councils with responsibility for housing in England and Wales, also found that about 4,000 people a year waited longer than the six-month limit for a decision on their application.
The charity warned that these delays were leaving disabled people living in inappropriate conditions and at risk of falls, and were driving up the costs of health and social care.
Funding for adaptations expected to fall
It also found that while demand for DFGs had risen by 6% since 2011-12, the numbers approved had only risen by 3%, and that funding for adaptations looked likely to fall.
Government funding for DFGs in England has risen in real-terms from 2011-15, though is no longer ring fenced. The 2015-16 allocation in England of £220m will be delivered through the Better Care Fund, the new pooled budget for health and social care. However, Freedom of Information returns from 114 English authorities found that, while 75% currently topped up their DFG funding from government from their own budgets, only 10% expected to do so from 2015-16, when the DFG became part of the BCF.
“Each year 2,500 disabled people have to wait over one year to get adaptations to make their homes accessible, so it is shocking that while demand for this essential work is going up, funding for the programme is falling,” said Andy Cole, director of corporate affairs at Leonard Cheshire.
“This will mean even more disabled people will be left stuck in homes that are damaging to their health, and their independence. The effects of poor housing cause stress and depression as well as physical injuries which put a huge strain on our health and social care services. All political parties must address this housing crisis and ensure the funding is put in place for local councils to resolve this.”
DFG time limits
Under the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996, councils in England and Wales must provide DFGs to people who qualify to fund adaptations, on a means-tested basis in respect of disabled adults. Under section 34 of the act, councils must make a decision on an application and notify the applicant within six months of the application being made.
Under section 36 of the act, the DFG must be paid within 12 months of approval being given.