INDEPENDENT PEOPLE, INDEPENDENT LIVES
HELPING PEOPLE TO LIVE SAFELY AT HOME
A REVIEW OF DISABLED FACILITIES GRANTS
Overview and Scrutiny –
Disabled Facilities Grants Working Group
Page Number(s) Topic
3-4 Chairman’s Foreword
5 Executive Summary
7-8 Terms of Reference and Methodology
Evidence Section – Issues
9-11 Disabled Facilities Grants Process (Facts and Figures)
17-19 Meeting with Key Partners
Evidence Section – Options
20 Level of Craven DC’s Disabled Facilities Grants Funding
21 Priority Points-Based System and Waiting Lists
22-23 Property Charge and Reusing Equipment
24 Appendix A – DFG Process Table
25 Appendix B – DFG 2010/11 Summary
26-27 Appendix C – Proposed Priority Points System
28 Appendix D – Focus of Scarborough Borough Council’s
29 Appendix E – Proposed Property Charge
Councils provide a range of services to their communities, some are legally required
(statutory services) and others are within a council’s discretion (discretionary
services) to enhance the quality of people’s lives.
Craven District Council (CDC) recognises the need to have a rolling programme
reviewing all its services over time to ensure that they are ‘fit for purpose’, providing
the best possible outcomes for service users and value for money for residents. In
the ever challenging economic climate, all councils are being further driven to ensure
they deliver more efficiently run services.
The Council’s Overview and Scrutiny (O&S) Committee identified disabled
facilities grants (DFG’s) provided by the Council as an area that needed
reviewing. In simple terms, demand (applicants) far-exceeds supply (finite
budget). This picture is consistent for all councils nationally.
These vital grants offer disabled and vulnerable people an opportunity for their
properties to be adapted in order to allow them to continue living in their own
homes. As well as the obvious benefits to the individual of this, the net costs to the
health sector are reduced, e.g. frees up hospital space for another patient.
Both the Council’s Priorities are fundamental to this review ‘Strengthening
Craven’s Economy and Promoting the Well-Being of Craven’s Communities’ and
‘A More Cost-Effective and Efficient Council’.
DFG’s are a hybrid, any person who is assessed by professional occupational
therapists as needing a DFG adaptation is statutorily entitled to that adaptation
provided that they meet the ‘means testing’ criteria. However, government
funding supported by local council funding still leads to a shortfall in any
financial year. The costs of adaptations varies but complex equipment requirements
rapidly consumes the annual budget.
This means approved applicants have their pending adaptations rolled-over
into the next financial year, each year this process continues. Whilst applicants
may be prepared to wait several months, this is clearly not ideal and the worse
case scenario could be deterioration in their condition.
O&S recognised that the DFG process is complex involving a number of key partners
and decided to focus their review on the funding pressures and waiting time for
applicants who had been approved for adaptations. O&S simultaneously met the
key partners in the DFG process comprising of CDC’s in-house DFG Team, North
Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) occupational therapists (OT’s); and the
Council’s contracted Home Improvement Agency (Anchor Staying Put).
At a later meeting, O&S also met Yorkshire Housing, who have a large proportion
of registered social housing in Craven following the transfer of CDC’s housing stock
in 2003, and have a clear interest in adaptations. Unfortunately, due to having a
small busy team, the Craven Carers’ Resource were unable to attend a meeting but
forwarded helpful views and suggestions.
The partners shared a lot of common ground such as recognising the budget and
waiting time pressures. Whilst the partners held meetings together shared
appropriate information concerning DFG casework, there was room for enhanced
integration as it was clear that there are differences of opinion. However, it is
anticipated that communications will improve when the three key partners all move
into the same premises (Belle Vue Mills) in 2011.
O&S collected a range of wider evidence such as statistical data relating to
budgets and costs of adaptations, range of applications and waiting times. O&S also
looked at some parallel work being undertaken in other North Yorkshire councils and
potentially sharing opportunities.
Next steps – we plan to present this report and recommendations to the O&S
Committee on 18 January before proceeding to the Policy Committee on 15
Concluding remarks - Lastly I would like to thank those involved in working on the
Review and noting that most importantly – residents need to be supported in the
best way(s) possible.
Councillor Andy Solloway,
Chairman, Disabled Facilities Grants Working Group.
Members of Disabled Facilities Grants Working Group Councillors Lin Barrington,
Pat Fairbank, Pam Heseltine, Mason and Roberts.
1.1 Disabled Facilities Grants (DFG) are a mandatory form of support (subject to
assessment criteria) which allow disabled and other vulnerable people the
opportunity to live safely in their own homes by adapting their homes to
accommodate their medical and other needs.
1.2 The Government provides unringfenced DFG funding to councils to allocate
to applicants. The Government’s expectation is that locally their contribution will form
around 60% of a council’s DFG budget with the council matching this with at least
1.3 Craven District Council (CDC) currently applies this formula. In 2010/11, the
total budget was £312,000 of which the Government’s contribution was £187,000 and
CDC supported this with £125,000 (note – this is a financial contribution only, not
‘support-in-kind’ match funding).
1.4 As with all areas of public services, there are pressures to provide more for
less. Funding required for applicants who are deemed entitled to DFG approved
works far-exceeds finite budgets. The tied issues of funding supply and applicant
demand are commonplace across the country.
1.5 The O&S Working Group appointed to study these issues undertook a
detailed investigation. They collected evidence from a range of sources.
1.6 This included a database of information from CDC’s DFG Team detailing
numbers and types of applications, breakdown of costs involved with total costs, time
taken to process applications from initial assessment through to formal application,
approval and completion of works and payment.
1.7 Meetings were held with North Yorkshire County Council (Occupational
Therapists), Anchor Staying Put (Home Improvement Agency) and Yorkshire
Housing. It was clear that prior to the meetings that there were differences of opinion
which were mainly clarified through the meetings. The apparent conflict did not tally
with the regular communications that were understood to take place.
1.8 The Craven Carers’ Resource had limited capacity to attend but forwarded
1.9 Benchmarking information was also sought in relation to other councils. In
particular, Malvern Hills (Worcester) had recently undertaken a review stemming
from similar issues, namely funding levels (level par with Craven) and applicant
demand. Scarborough Borough Council’s priority points based system designed to
tackle waiting lists and identify priority applicants was particularly valuable. Harrogate
Borough Council’s policy on property charges was another useful source of
Recommendation 1 – Subject to any Government DFG funding changes in
2011/12, that Craven DC maintains its current level of ‘match’ funding (40% =
£125,000) for Disabled Facilities Grants to complement the Government DFG
funding (60% = £187,000).
Recommendation 2 – That appropriate encouragement is directed to Yorkshire
Housing to ensure that they do invest at least an average of £50,000 per year
on adaptations for their housing stock in Craven and that they provide an
annual progress update to Craven DC.
Recommendation 3 – Craven DC – as a local commissioning body – must
ensure that it gains the most effective and cost-effective home improvement
agency service for Craven to replace the departing Anchor Staying Put HIA.
Recommendation 4 – As per Scarborough BC’s model, that Craven DC
introduces a priority points-based system to allow applicants with the most
urgent needs to be ‘fast-tracked’ (Appendix C).
Recommendation 5 – As per Scarborough BC’s model, a partnership panel is
formed, comprising of Craven DC’s DFG Team, North Yorkshire County
Council (Occupational Therapists), the Council’s contracted Home
Improvement Agency and any other relevant co-opted partner, to oversee a
consistent approach to operational assessments prioritising applications and
promoting longer-term strategic improvement and good regular
Recommendation 6 – That Craven DC introduces a property charge to deter
profiteering from Disabled Facilities Grants adaptations and ‘claw-back’ costs
from any adapted properties that are sold subject to criteria to waive ‘claw-
back’ if appropriate (Appendix E).
Recommendation 7 – That Craven DC continues to explore equipment
procurement contracts in conjunction with North Yorkshire partners and
suppliers of equipment.
Recommendation 8 – That Craven DC works in partnership with North
Yorkshire County (Adult and Community Services), the Council’s contracted
Home Improvement Agency and other partners (NHS North Yorkshire and York,
Age Concern, special interest and disability charities) to promote wider
funding opportunities for prospective Disabled Facilities Grants applicants.
Recommendation 9 – That, as an alternative to disusing equipment, Craven DC
considers opportunities for reusing stock, that still has a safe working life, by
offering it for a small cost to prospective Disabled Facilities Grants applicants
or relevant partners such as charities subject to the costs of removal etc being
Recommendation 10 – That further to the proposed partnership panel and
promotion of wider funding opportunities, wider enhanced partnership working
with all key partners should be pursued.
TERMS OF REFERENCE AND METHODOLOGY
Terms of Reference
Members initially identified four potential areas for review:
Funding – levels and sources of funding budgets such as whether the Council
retains or amends its 40% discretionary funding level needed to be
considered as well as ensuring good value for money adaptations including
increasing potential re-use of equipment used in adaptations in different
properties (focusing on the most common cost range of £5,000 - £10,000).
Prioritisation – demand far exceeds supply. There was significant pressure on
finite budgets leading to approved applications (approvals) being rolled
forward into the next financial year. Prioritising applications (applicants’ needs
etc) needed to be considered to create a more tailored system.
Occupational Therapists’ needs assessments – these appeared to be based
on perceived future need as well as genuine immediate need. Maintaining
consistency across therapists was important recognising the need to secure
good value for money.
HIA procurement contract – ‘Anchor’ were moving away from DFG advice and
support and moving more towards working in the area of care homes. The
current contract would finish in March 2012. NYCC managed the contract with
CDC signed up as a partner. It was expected that NYCC would re-tender the
contract in 2012 with the view of having a single Home Improvement Agency
for the whole of North Yorkshire or having two or three contracts for the sub –
region, e.g. a tripartite agreement covering the areas of Craven, Harrogate
and Selby, retain the existing arrangements or a Craven in-house model. It
would be likely that a single contract would provide considerable savings.
2.1 It was envisaged that in 2011 when CDC moves into new premises (Belle
Vue Mills) shared with NYCC, that issues involving OT’s and the HIA will be resolved.
CDC’s DFG Team will have opportunities to directly meet partners and discuss
issues on a day-to-day basis. NYCC were discussing the HIA procurement issues
and options with CDC. Members felt that these two issues need not be tackled
immediately as they could be pursued effectively by other means.
2.2 Therefore Members decided to focus on the immediate budget funding and
prioritisation issues. The agree TOR were:
To undertake a review of the Council’s Disabled Facilities Grants scheme to
deliver an efficient system, best value for the Council and appropriate levels
of support for disabled residents focusing on
o Funding – levels and sources of funding budgets, how best to bridge
any gaps, whether the Council retains or amends its 40%
discretionary funding level, ensuring good value for money
adaptations including potential re-use of adaptations in different
properties (focusing on the most common cost range of £5,000 -
£10,000) pursuing any opportunities allowed through legislative
o Prioritisation – a system of prioritising applications (applicants’ needs
etc) needs to be considered to create a more orderly system.
2.3 Members considered the basis for a DFG:
the application process and assessment criteria,
the different stages in the process from initial assessment through to
monitoring of compliance with conditions attached to the Grant.
The levels of statutory and discretionary funding awards were also considered
and alternative sources of funding. The performance of the current scheme
administration was also considered. Key operational partners were consulted.
Issues with the current process were identified and the scope for change and
EVIDENCE SECTION - ISSUES
DISABLED FACILTIES GRANTS PROCESS (FACTS AND FIGURES)
Aims and Objectives of Disabled Facilities Grants
3.1 Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) is funding support awarded to people wishing
to ‘adapt’ the homes of disabled people to allow them to live independently (or with
support) in their own home, i.e. improving the ‘quality of life’ of vulnerable people.
The applicant must either be the owner of the dwelling or be a tenant. This will not
necessarily be the disabled person for whom the works are required. In such cases the
applicant will make it clear on whose behalf the application is being made. A landlord
(private or social housing) may apply on behalf of a disabled tenant.
3.2 DFG’s are governed by housing legislation and guidance issued by the
Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Councils develop
schemes tailored to fit the best approach locally but fundamentally there is a statutory
basis that has to be followed.
Types of Works Available
3.3 Examples of adaptations are ramps, handrails, widening doorways, stair-lifts,
changing heating systems, easy access lighting and easy access showers/baths.
Level access showers and stair-lifts (£3,000 - £6,000 variable cost) are two of the
common adaptations. Adaptations may be in, or around, the home including from a
garden area to enter the home.
The DFG Process
Appendix A – process flow-chart
Assessment and Recommendations (Occupational Therapists)
3.4 Detailed policy guidance and a checklist are used by an Occupational
Therapist (NYCC – Adult and Community Services) to assess an applicant’s needs
and make recommendations to CDC in respect of the adaptations required. The
guidance includes a range of potential adaptations and the checklist helps ensure
that all options are considered before decisions are made, i.e. the specific make-up
of an individual’s needs are considered and then matched against the options for the
most sustainable outcome.
Building Advice and Support (Home Improvement Agency)
3.5 CDC’s HIA contractor (Anchor Staying Put) are then responsible for using the
recommendations to survey the property and, in consultation with the applicant,
advise of the most appropriate options which may not necessarily include
adaptations. Options could include simply converting a downstairs room into a
3.6 The HIA are also responsible for drafting a ‘schedule of works’, seeking
quotes/tenders from a list of reputable, competitive building contractors, and quality
of work when completed (the applicant will also need to be satisfied with the quality).
Home Improvement Agency Funding
3.7 The HIA receive the following funding:
£40,000 per year from CDC (funding is made up of £12,000 Revenue
core funding and £28,000 capital funding from the Council’s Regional
Housing Board allocation with the latter finishing in 2010/11)
£34,000 per year from NYCC (Adult and Community Services)
£32,000 per year from NYCC (Supporting People Programme) (plus
an additional £50,000 in 2010/11 towards the Handyperson Service)
15% casework fee as part of DFG awards issued by CDC
3.8 The HIA are part of a much larger organisation, Anchor Trust Group. The
Craven team are based in Skipton Town Hall and comprise of an Agency Manager,
Technical Officer, Case Worker and Clerical Officer. They also have three tradesmen
involved with the Home Maintenance Support Scheme who undertake minor repairs
for vulnerable clients on a cost of materials only basis.
3.9 With assistance from the HIA the applicant is then responsible for submitting
the formal application to CDC.
Award Criteria and Means Testing (CDC)
3.10 CDC conducts a means test of the disabled person’s financial resources
(income and capital) which may be offset against the maximum grant allowed (i.e.
reduced grant) or exceptionally refusal of the application if the person has significant
ability to pay for the works themselves. If the adaptation is for a disabled young
person (aged < 19) then means testing is not permitted. Means testing is quite rigid
and based on data entered into a standard approved programme. However, this does
provide speed of processing and consistency rather than individuals being required
to make case-by-case decisions. The programme calculates a number of points for
each applicant and the level of contribution required from an applicant is based on
their points total.
Mandatory Requirement and Conditions (CDC)
3.11 Generally speaking, if a disabled person passes these various stages then
awarding a DFG is a mandatory requirement allowing the works to be carried out in
compliance with CDC’s conditions to the satisfaction of CDC and the applicant.
Deadlines (Council and Applicant)
3.12 CDC is required to make a decision whether to approve an application (with
conditions) within 6 months of receipt of the formal application and then to issue
actual funding within 12 months of the decision (mirrors requirement on applicants to
ensure works are completed within 12 months of the decision to award funding being
made). Payment may be made when all the work has been completed or by staged
Discretionary Elements and Funding
3.13 The system is mainly driven by mandatory rules with some limited scope for
flexibility, .e.g. CDC may exceptionally choose to award an amount over the usual
maximum grant limit. CDC might suggest alternative sources of funding such as low
interest loans to assist someone reach a decent homes standard etc.
Funding Levels and Budgets
3.14 CDC’s annual budget for 2010/11 is £312,000 of which 60% (£187,000) is
mandatory funding provided by central government and 40% (£125,000) is
discretionary ‘match’ funding that the Council may provide. However, whilst the
Council’s contribution is ‘discretionary’, central government has stated an expectation
that authorities should aim to adhere to the 40% level as a minimum proportion.
DFG 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11
Government Capital £172,000 £187,000 £187,000
Craven Contribution £134,000 £130,000 £124,700
Total (budget £306,000 £317,000 £311,700
3.15 The DFG process is administered by two CDC Environmental Health Officers
(senior and principal grades). The Senior EHO allocates 40% of her time on
processing of DFG’s (remaining time is on non-DFG work). The Principal EHO (5%
time spent on DFG) is responsible for decisions in terms of policy and procedures
and service level agreement monitoring.
3.16 All customers are invited to complete simple questionnaires giving their views
on how their application progressed, performance of CDC staff and key partners and
any improvement suggestions that they wish to make. The service is well regarded,
the main concern is waiting time although no legal challenge has yet been made.
EVIDENCE SECTION - ISSUES
Budgets (CDC contribution) v Demand (waiting lists)
4.1 The 2010/11 budget (£312,000) has been fully committed based on 2010/11
approvals (and any outstanding works approved in 2009/10 which have been rolled
forward) although full budget actual spend has not taken place, .i.e. some 2009/10
approvals will be paid for in 2010/11 and some 2010/11 approvals will be paid in
2011/12 resulting in works taking several months to complete after applications have
been approved due to budget funding gaps.
4.2 Six months into 2010/11, 45 applications (23 in RSL properties) had been
completed/approved with the annual budget fully committed and a waiting list of 5
people had been created (October 2010). Applications carried forward meant that
approved works could not be completed until April 2011 at the earliest.
DFG 2005/06 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10
No. of grants 40 36 55 52 52
Total Budget £198,000 £141,000 £155,000 £325,000 £317,000
Spend £165,000 £210,000 £215,000 £306,000 £321,000
4.3 £30,000 is the maximum grant for an adaptation (recently increased by
central government from £25,000). Numbers of maximum awards (e.g. extensions)
are increasing although most are £5,000 - £10,000 (e.g. level access showers).
4.4 It had been expected that private sector renewal funding monies (regional,
central government) were likely to decrease significantly following the
Comprehensive Spending Review. Government DFG funding was actually
maintained and further increased in line with inflation when the CSR announcement
4.5 CDC also provided Repair Assistance Scheme loans, Empty Property grants
and Energy Efficiency grants. There was also high demand for these grants.
Unfortunately these loans and grants would be unlikely to continue in 2011/12 due to
4.6 Adaptations for disabled young people are not means tested (recent central
government direction), i.e. this is placing increased pressure on resources. Landlords
are not required to be means-tested, the financial resources of the relevant disabled
person are considered. Conversely, landlords might not support an adaptation in their
property although there is a clear financial incentive.
Mandatory Duty and Prioritisation
4.7 The Council is under a legal duty to provide a DFG if the applicant meets the
statutory criteria but deadlines for providing actual funding are not under any rigorous
enforcement regime (see legal challenge below) A recent housing audit had led to
recommendations by the Audit Commission that the CDC’s DFG system needed a
system of prioritisation.
4.8 Failure to deliver an efficient service leading to significant delays may mean
that the Council risks legal challenges from applicants although the Council has not
been the subject of any challenge thus far. There is no simple appeals mechanism.
4.9 There may be genuine reasons for delays such as seeking planning
permission that inevitably involve some time, although 12 months is usually the
maximum time for works to be completed following a decision. During that period
interim payments are made to the contractor whilst works are in progress.
4.10 The points-based scheme used by Scarborough BC would act as good
source material. This allowed applicants that were in the most urgent need to be
identified and given some priority. This did not necessarily mean that other less
urgent applicants constantly fell to the bottom of the queue as they would be
awarded some extra points for time spent on the waiting list.
4.11 OT’s did not explicitly support a prioritisation scheme stating that CDC had a
responsibility for prompt administration. However, sometimes individual OT’s
requested prioritisation for specific cases.
Reuse of Equipment
4.12 Reusing/recycling equipment had been explored. Although some authorities
did use reconditioned equipment etc there were some inherent risks.
4.13 The average life-span of a stair-lift might be three years but without knowing
the usage of reconditioned equipment there was a risk it could fail not long after re-
installation. Equipment warranties were often in the region of two years. Applicants
also needed to be content with having reconditioned equipment.
4.14 There was also the question of ownership – it was possible that CDC would
have to assume that responsibility including maintenance and insurance costs which
were also much higher on used equipment. All in all, reusing/recycling equipment
was not considered viable for these practical reasons including cost.
4.15 Records of equipment were kept by OT’s and if someone passed away then a
request was made to the next of kin for return of equipment.
4.16 Equipment stores were jointly funded between NYCC and NHS North
Yorkshire and York (Primary Care Trust). The main store was in Harrogate which
was also responsible for cleaning any equipment that was to be reused.
4.17 In some cases, equipment already within the property could be simply moved
(e.g. moving a toilet downstairs).
4.18 Amendments to legislation now allows local authorities to ‘claw-back’ costs of
adaptations by giving them the discretion to impose a limited charge on adopted
properties of owner occupiers if it is sold within ten years. Where the cost of the DFG
exceeds £5,000 the limit of the maximum charge will be £10,000 (i.e. maximum
amount that can be ‘clawed-back’ is £10,000). The Council could focus on trying to
recover equipment/costs in the most common price range for adaptations (£5,000 -
£10,000).Harrogate BC considered ‘claw-back’ in July 2009 and Hambleton DC are
doing so now.
4.19 There were other considerations such as people passing away, i.e. emotive
issues that needed to be managed sensitively meaning that flexibility might be
4.20 A NY procurement body is being considered to use buying power to
potentially secure better value for money deals for equipment. Currently contractors
can source equipment deals but a NY body may be able to significantly reduce costs.
A NY procurement contract is being developed for stair lifts.
4.21 The disabled occupant is normally required to remain in residence for at least
five years. A local land charge restricting sale of the property is normally sought.
Annual compliance checks of conditions are undertaken.
4.22 Re-use of adaptations in different properties (should a householder move on)
is considered but is often not economically viable, i.e. builders may be consulted but
cost/effort of removal and re-installing is often more than simply installing a new
adaptation (stair-lifts common example of poor value re-use). ‘Wear and tear’ on
equipment also needs to be considered, i.e. if equipment has already been in use for
some years then its working life may be limited. CDC could focus on trying to recover
equipment/costs in the most common price range for adaptations (£5,000 - £10,000).
Alternative Options to New Adaptations
4.23 RSL’s try to ‘marry’ people with properties, i.e. if a person needs a specific
type of adaptation that already exists in a vacant property such as a downstairs
bedroom then that option is suggested. Choice-based lettings may further assist
applicants finding suitable properties rather than resorting to DFG’s.
Planning, Affordable Homes and Building Standards
4.24 New build RSL affordable housing approved by the Council is set at ‘Code
Level 3’ of the Code for Sustainable Homes to ensure that appropriate adaptations
are already in place to support some disabled people and also for the property to still
be standing over a long period. The Council aimed to promote the higher ‘Code 4’
standard over the next year, e.g. £1.3 million of affordable housing funding had
recently being attracted from central government for ‘Code 4’ standard new builds.
Building Support and Advice (Home Improvement Agencies)
4.25 The HIA is a key cog in the DFG system.
4.26 An in-house model (as successfully run by Scarborough) is an option (e.g.
estates staff might be able to provide building advice and support) although there
would be administrative costs, potential resources pressures and possible
employment law issues. Within NY, Scarborough DC had successfully managed their
HIA in-house. In-house control allows a more tailored system.
4.27 Following Anchor’s decision to transfer their Home Improvement Agency
operations to another provider it has been confirmed that – subject to formal
agreement and due diligence – a national company, the Mears Group had been
approved as the preferred partner by NYCC to provide Home Improvement Agency
services for Craven until March 2012.
Needs Assessments (Occupational Therapists)
4.28 There were some perceptions that inconsistencies appeared to exist amongst
OT’s. Some appeared to propose unlimited adaptations based on perceived future
need whilst others took a more tailored approach based on actual immediate need.
4.29 It was felt that there may need to be a more rigorous approach based on
common standards. OT’s are professionals whose judgement has to be trusted –
there is no appeals mechanism (for CDC) against their recommendations. CDC has
no legal remit to enquiry about the disabled person’s medical conditions.
4.30 It was also felt that OT’s are not required to have regard to budgets for
adaptations – and that some guidance or training in this area could be worth
4.31 There could be scope for improved guidance and regular meetings with OT’s.
4.32 Some registered social landlords (housing associations) such as Yorkshire
Housing (YH) have undertaken adaptations to a number of their properties funding
from their budgets. YH had financed two sets of adaptations, one of which was for
around £10,000 and another set around £10,000. They also undertook minor repairs
without needing to refer to OT’s. YH are aiming to develop a database of
adaptations for their properties which may assist reuse and allocating potential
occupiers to the most appropriate properties without the need for DFG’s. YH were
understood to be required to commit £50,000 annually for adaptations – as part of
the 2003 Housing Voluntary Stock Transfer to them – although there have been
issues with this requirement. It was understood that actual spend in recent years had
fallen well short of this average target, in the last year YH had invested around
£20,000 in 2 DFG adaptations.
4.33 Legal advice received had been that – following the Housing Voluntary Stock
Transfer in 2003 – YH were obliged to commit to investing in £50,000 worth of
adaptations each year. YH could aim for a cost-neutral approach, e.g. investing in
improvements and recouping some of their costs through minor rent increases.
4.34 At a later meeting held with YH, they explained that the £50,000 was an
annual average target for them to invest in adaptations in their housing stock.
However, the Agreement did not specifically state £50,000 or need to be linked to
DFG’s. It was more widely focused disability funding, i.e. adaptations for people with
disabilities but not limited to DFG applicants. During the meeting, YH gave details of
their new dedicated adaptations team, outlined their approach to partnership working
through service level agreements (SLA) and on-going efficiencies drive including
reusing equipment. Members felt reassured that YH were now fully committed to
adaptations work and innovative in their work although progress checks still needed
to be maintained to ensure that YH improved their levels of adaptations investment.
4.35 Funding opportunities needed to be sought with charitable organisations such
as for ex-serviceman, Age Concern, disability groups etc.
4.36 The Government had recently announced £70million in 2010/11 for primary
care trusts nationally to use offset hospital stays. NHS North Yorkshire and York
(Primary Care Trust) potentially benefited by DFG adaptations being used to help
people avoid having to stay in hospitals. Currently partnership and funding
opportunities with the NHS were not being developed. Potential opportunities needed
to be explored.
Craven Carers’ Resource
4.37 The Carers’ Resource supported the concept of getting help to adapt
properties and the benefits to recipients of grants and their carers.
4.38 Their main concern was the length of (unknown) time people had to wait for
the DFG process to complete. People didn’t know whether they needed to wait for
another six weeks or six months. People in poor health or with caring responsibilities
often felt they had lost control of what was happening to them, and a definite time
plan from the start of the process would be a major improvement.
4.39 Concerns had been raised about the clarity of the process. Sometimes people
thought their request had been approved when in fact all they had had was an OT
assessment. Vulnerable people were likely to misunderstand so it was important to
make extra efforts to let them know where they were in the process.
4.40 Applicants were often told that there was no money. They suggested that a
direct payment style option could be considered allowing people the option of sorting
out their own work more quickly and more cheaply. Obviously any work would have
to conform to the same quality specification.
4.41 DFG’s concern vulnerable people and can involve emotive issues, in
particular if someone has passed away or is expected to pass away in the near future
(cannot be refused a DFG on assumption of passing away) so careful management
of people and issues is always required.
EVIDENCE SECTION - ISSUES
MEETINGS WITH KEY PARTNERS
Role of Occupational Therapists and Methodology
5.1 The Health and PSI Team were based in Craven (Skipton office) and
Harrogate. Their work included health assessments, DFG work and equipment
issues etc. The team included three other occupational therapists (OT’s) primarily
based in Skipton. They were all professionally trained to assess the day-to-day living
needs of DFG applicants which formed the first stage of the process.
5.2 They undertook a range of assessments for each individual. As part of their
assessments, they considered, and discussed with the applicant, the various options
available to allow people to live independently (or with the support of a carer) in their
own homes. They aimed to consider the simplest solutions first before moving onto
more complex options such as DFG’s. Then, still in consultation with the applicant,
they made their recommendations as to the best options available. The process
would then move on to the next stage – assessment referral to CDC who would then
instruct the HIA.
5.3 OT’s were required to work within the legislative framework. They also
operated using a detailed NYCC adaptations policy which provided a rules
framework that they needed to adhere to. A simple guidance checklist was also used
for when working with the applicant. This methodology was to encourage a
consistent approach across the OT network which aimed to balance the needs of
applicants with the best options available. The need to be cost-efficient was
recognised so the best option did not need to be the most expensive but needed to
be right for the applicant.
5.4 Each OT had their own style and level of detail that they worked to but broad
acceptable consistency was also created through regular team meetings and each
assessment being signed off by either the Team Manager or Advanced Practitioner.
5.5 Assessments referral letter – the template for this had changed 18 months
ago requiring OT’s to give clearer clinical reasons for a decision. Also at a recent
North Yorkshire Housing Consortium meeting it had been agreed to make changes.
This would also aid CDC (and the HIA) in understanding what was required and any
5.6 Assessments were done on a case-by-case basis so inevitably there was
some variation due to factors such as the complexity of the individual’s needs, the
property lay-out etc. In some cases, in-house adjustments to living quarters sufficed,
e.g. adapting a downstairs room into a bedroom could take away the need for a stair-
list. However, such an adaptation might lead to the requirement of a ground floor
bathroom. The knock on effect of such of such a scenario could result in the scheme
being economically unviable and the best interests of the occupier being better met
by relocating to more suitable accommodation.
5.7 Where appropriate, OT’s used a five-year sustainability approach which
equated to the five-year DFG property occupancy limit. This allowed them to consider
the longer-term needs of applicants and ‘future-proof’ appropriately. Whilst there was
no certainty of diagnosing perfectly the long-term medical requirements of someone,
good risk assessments could still be made. By not taking a long-term approach, there
could be a cost-effectiveness issue. Longer-term costs might be increased through a
short-term approach and questions asked why longer-term needs had not been
5.8 The number of DFG enquiries to OT’s and number of rejections was not
readily available. This data was held by their performance management unit.
However, it was thought that most enquiries led to solutions other than DFG’s.
Role of Home Improvement Agency and Methodology
5.9 They first considered whether DFG’s were the most appropriate option
alongside any other alternatives. They then designed the schedule of works required,
sought two quotes from their approved list of contractors who were experienced in
grants-based work, appointed a contractor and supervised the contractor.
Throughout they worked closely with the applicant, helping them make the funding
application and any planning/building applications, as well as with the OT’s and CDC.
The HIA were part funded by CDC and other organisations (e.g. North Yorkshire
Supporting People). They also charged a fee for their services (percentage of DFG
award). They worked on a ‘not-for-profit’ basis.
5.10 The HIA also undertook small repairs. ‘Minor’ adaptations that were under
£1,000 were not allowed to be means-tested. They undertook around 1400 ‘minor’
adaptations but pending budget pressures might reduce these to 400 – 500.
5.11 YH were keen to work with all partners and make the most of Service Level
Agreements (SLA). They tended to develop SLA’s with local authority partners. They
held quarterly meetings with relevant colleagues from CDC and NYCC (OT’s). They
held SLA meetings with CDC and were working with CDC to develop joint funding
5.12 They felt that of the £50,000 annual adaptations provision, £20,000 could
realistically be directed towards DFG’s. However, they couldn’t fund the full DFG
demand and OT’s needed to prioritise applicants. They also felt that OT’s were able
to make recommendations without particularly needing to consider budgetary
constraints as OT’s were not providing funding.
5.13 YH had developed their adaptations service to create a dedicated in-house
team of 4 staff to deliver adaptations work across YH. The team had been
operational since April 2010 and its aim was to provide a central pool of expertise.
Enhanced software was in place to allow better management of properties with
adaptations (e.g. property register to match disabled tenants to adapted properties)
including an improved appointments system. Customers had access to a dedicated
adaptations telephone ‘hotline’ (0845 60 60 665), it was suggested that the Council
should publicise this number. YH also offered housing support to satellite villages
such as Grassington and Bentham. It was requested that they put housing
information in local newsletters.
5.14 YH aimed to offer a streamlined service for ‘minor’ adaptations (costing
<£1000) by funding and undertaking simple works themselves bypassing more
involved needs assessments by OT’s. The simpler approach allowed YH to more
quickly invest in minor adaptations reducing overall costs and time. Subject to YH
approving works then they aimed to fund all minor adaptations themselves. Where a
needs assessment by an OT was appropriate then that would be sought. YH were
also prepared to fund some ‘major’ works (only if costing <£1000) which might
otherwise be appropriate for DFG funding.
5.15 YH had a holistic approach to equipment. They aimed to reuse equipment
wherever possible e.g. flexible ramps that could be moved around rather than
permanent concrete ramps, and reconditioned stair-lifts at discounted rates from
major suppliers. Their view was that permanent adaptations cost more and
sometimes it proved difficult to find a suitable tenant to replace a disabled tenant who
had moved on. They also had a storage area for equipment as well as a stock of
spare parts. YH’s approach to equipment use and storage was impressive.
5.16 In 2008/09, YH undertook 181 minor adaptations in Craven with a total cost of
over £21,000. In 2009/10, there were 169 minor adaptations costing just under
£27,000. Spend to date in the current financial year, 2010/11, had been just over
£14,000 on 145 minor adaptations (188 enquiries) and also just over £19,500
committed to 23 major adaptations some of which had been completed. For each of
the last 3 years, YH had also spent an allocated amount just under £4,500 for service
maintenance of around 29 stair-lift and hoist units.
5.17 YH had contributed £30,000 for three major adaptations (£10,000 each)
towards DFG’s in the last 18 months. They were currently working with CDC to jointly
funding two more major schemes in the current financial year.
5.17 As well as developing partnership working, YH were keen to pursue
efficiencies and other opportunities. They offered a significant home improvement
agency (HIA) service acting as the HIA to Harrogate and Selby Councils as well as
York. The value of adaptations work for Harrogate and Selby was in the region of
£600,000. They were looking at developing a competitive pricing framework in
conjunction with partner organisations.
5.18 They had expressed an interest in taking over the HIA contract that Anchor
Staying Put provided for Craven (and NYCC). However, the Anchor Trust Group
wished to sell off all its HIA contracts and the Mears Group were provisionally
expected to assume responsibility. YH referred to the importance of local
commissioning and that they had the resources to administer HIA on their own
properties for DFG’s i.e. reduce the costs of a separate DFG.
5.19 They understood that around 14 DFG’s last year related to YH properties.
They argued that DFG adaptations did not automatically mean that a property’s value
went up. They were also not permitted to pass on the costs of adaptations through
EVIDENCE SECTION - OPTIONS
LEVEL OF CRAVEN DC’S DISABLED FACILITIES GRANTS FUNDING
6.1 There were fundamentally three options to increase the budget, ‘no change’
or decrease the budget.
6.2 An increase was ruled out in view of the current economic climate and
spending pressures facing the public sector including CDC.
6.3 A decrease could be the full budget or £5000, £10,000 etc based on an
average adaptations cost of £5,000. Effectively this would mean each ‘surplus’
applicant requiring a £5,000 adaptation might be rolled forward to the next financial
year. Whilst this could be an option, risks included the conditions of vulnerable
people seriously deteriorating and increased risk that an applicant, or organisation on
their behalf, might launch a legal challenge and CDC could be faced with costs.
6.4 Weighing up costs and benefits to applicants and CDC, the ‘no change’
option seemed best.
EVIDENCE SECTION – OPTIONS
PRIORITY POINTS-BASED SYSTEM AND WAITING LISTS
7.1 A points-based system to prioritise applicants based on the urgency of their
needs and other relevant factors was recommended by the Audit Commission
(inspection of CDC’s Housing Strategy) and the Local Government Ombudsman as
an efficient and consistent approach to managing demand.
7.2 This was seen as a more proactive approach rather than simply dealing with
applications on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis. It would also allow applicants to
know where they stood on the waiting list, how far they were progressing through the
waiting list and gave them the option of considering alternative routes if viable.
7.3 The proposed format for CDC (Appendix C) is similar to that adopted by
Scarborough Council. However, there are some differences and it could be argued
that the format adopted by Scarborough should be copied to a far greater extent if
not completely. Other authorities in North Yorkshire, including Harrogate and Selby,
are moving towards adopting similar schemes
Scarborough’s Successful Model
7.4 Scarborough’s approach allows for operational and strategic elements to be
reviewed after 6 months. It was deemed to be working successfully.
7.5 Scarborough’s operational approach involves all key partners (the Council,
their in-house HIA, NYCC occupational therapists and their main local RSL) holding
regular meetings to review the OT assessments and recommendations, consider
alternatives to DFG’s (whether alternative adaptations or funding) and mutually agree
the best way forward. The regular meetings are maintained through the lifeline of an
application for the various stages. The common approach is to ensure general
agreement and learn from each other without overly imposing on the professional
status of any one partner.
7.6 Scarborough’s strategic approach again involves the key partners holding
regular meetings. However, they are reviewing what they have learnt and trying to
improve future approaches and outcomes.
EVIDENCE SECTION – OPTIONS
PROPERTY CHARGES AND REUSE OF EQUIPMENT
8.1 In 2009, DCLG announced changes to modernise the DFG process. The aim
was to better balance supply and demand and any other problems. Introducing a
property charge was one proposed change by taking away the need for local
authorities to apply to the Secretary of State for permission to do so.
8.2 CDC may introduce a property charge where an owner occupier is in receipt
of a DFG. Charing criteria must be consistent and fair with appropriate flexibility and
be proportionate to the level of DFG awarded. The aim of such a charge is to allow
money to be ‘clawed-back’ should a property be sold before a reasonable time period
has elapsed, i.e. deters people from abusing the DFG process to make a ‘profit’. This
ensures that CDC’s investment supports the needs of vulnerable people over several
years else may be ‘clawed-back’ and reinvested for future applicants.
8.3 Through the North Yorkshire Adaptation Alignment Project, other NY
authorities are looking towards adopting similar policies. The proposed format
(Appendix D) is similar to that adopted by Harrogate Borough Council.
Note – the proposed charge does not apply to properties owned by registered social
landlords. Approximately half of adaptations in receipt of CDC DFG awards are in
properties owned by RSL’s reducing the potential ‘claw-back’ by half. The ‘claw-back’
dividend is further reduced if few or no properties are sold within 10 years. However,
essentially the aim is to deter people from using the DFG process to gain a profit and
ensure that any ‘dividends’ are re-invested for the benefit of other DFG applicants.
Definition of a Property Charge
8.4 The property charge is a general consent allowing local authorities to place
limited charges on adapted properties of owner occupiers, where the DFG award
exceeds £5,000, and limited to a maximum charge of £10,000, i.e. maximum amount
that could be ‘clawed-back’ is £10,000. The charge only applies if the adapted
property is sold within ten years of the grant being awarded and is subject to
‘exceptions’. The charge fee itself costs around £50, simple application process
through the Land Registry.
8.5 The Local Authority may place a land charge on the property, and reclaim
part or all of a DFG award. As vulnerable people may be directly/indirectly involved
then some flexibility (‘exceptions’) may be applied and demands may be waived
entirely or partially:
The recipient would suffer unreasonable financial hardship if all (or part) of
the grant was reclaimed;
The disposal of the property was to enable the recipient to take up
employment, or change the location of their employment;
The disposal of the property is made for reasons of the recipient’s physical or
mental health or well being: or
The disposal is made to enable the recipient to live with, or near any person
who will provide care for the recipient by reason of their disability.
8.6 Allowing for ‘exceptions’, CDC may reclaim a portion of the grant which
relates to that amount between £5,000 and £15,000. For example, if the amount of
grant paid to the recipient does not exceed £5,000, then nothing can be reclaimed. If
the grant amount is between £5,000 and £15,000 the maximum of £10,000 can be
reclaimed in full, but anything exceeding £15,000 cannot be reclaimed.
8.7 A high proportion of DFG work in Craven is for the installation of level access
showers and stairlifts. The vast majority of lift adaptations are under the £5000
threshold whilst level access showers tend to be slightly above.
8.8 Extensions to properties to provide ground floor bedroom or bathroom
facilities usually cost over £30,000 so the full £10,000 repayment could be claimed
by CDC. This is not unjust to the applicant as an extension to a property will usually
increase the value but other types of adaptation including level access showers and
through floor lifts may add no value or even reduce the value of a property.
Levels of funding that could have been recouped in 2008/09 and 2009/10.
Year Number of Cost of Schemes Nature of
2008/09 One £10,450 Ground Floor
2009/10 Three £42,715 Ground Floor
DFG PROCESS – RUNNING ORDER
Step Description of Activity
(Assessment of Applicant’s Needs and
Type of Adaptation Required)
1. Occupational Therapist (OT) visits and assessment of applicant’s
2. Recommendation to the Council for Disabled Facilities Grant
(Technical Development of Adaptation/s
and Means Testing)
3. Anchor Staying Put preliminary assessment and submission to
Council of provisional grant application
4. Applicant notified of likely contribution (if any) toward cost of works
5. Tenders assessed and discussed with applicant
6. Full application completed and submitted to Council
7. Council confirm benefits received or visit applicant to verify income
8. Application assessed and approved by Council.
9. Details assessed and applicant and Anchor Staying Put informed
10. Start dates for work agreed with applicant.
11. Anchor Staying Put arranges for signing of contracts
12. Final inspection of work carried out by Anchor Staying Put
13. Council requested to pay Contractor and Anchor fees
14. Council places local land charge on property
(Monitoring of Compliance with Conditions of Grant)
15. Applicant written to by Council every year for 5 years to ensure
compliance with grant conditions
16. After 5 years, grant condition period expires and local land charge
removed from register
DFG SUMMARY 2010-11
Total CDC contribution £124,700
Total Government funding £187,000
Total budget for year (2010-11) £311,700
Total carry over from previous year (2009-10) £000,000
Number of Grants, Range of Applicants etc
Total grants completed/approved 45
Owner occupied properties who have received DFG 20
Housing Association properties who have received DFG 23
Private Let properties who have received DFG 2
Age Range of Occupants
Client Age Range 3 years – 96 years
The budget is fully committed, a waiting list of 5 people was created in October 2010.
PROPOSED PRIORITY POINTS SYSTEM
Fast track request Points
The Occupational Therapist has flagged the case as extremely Fast track requests are
urgent due to health and safety issues or life threatening outside points scheme
illness (to be applied in exceptional circumstances).
1.0 Time waiting for adaptation Points
OT recommendations made in last 6 months. 0
For every month elapsed over 6 months since recommendations. +2
2.0 Reason for recommending adaptation (Note: score up to Points
three categories only.)
To facilitate access into/out of the property +10
To facilitate access to the toilet. +20
To facilitate the use of the kitchen/enable food preparation. +7
To facilitate getting up and down steps and stairs. +10
To facilitate the use or access to bathing/showering. +10
To facilitate access to a room used or usable as the principal family +5
To facilitate access to or the provision of a room used or usable for +5
To improving or provide a heating system
Other (specify and score 1 – 7) Give reasons:
e.g. To facilitate access to garden, ergonomics within the dwelling
3.0 Adaptations Points
Existing adaptations exist, which partially meet needs or would do -10
so in the short term.
4.0 Mobility (Note: only apply one score for the client.) Points
Client is room bound or house bound without proposed adaptation. + 30
Client is a total wheelchair user. +15
Client is mainly a wheelchair user but can stand for short periods. +10
Client is ambulant indoors but needs wheelchair outdoors. +8
Client is ambulant but uses frame/sticks or support system. +6
Client is ambulant but unsteady or blind/deaf. +4
5.0 Safety factors (Note: score one category only.) Points
Client is a single parent with disabled child. +20
Client lives alone. +15
Client has carer who is not managing +10
Client is a disabled parent with able bodied child aged under 16. +5
Client lives with/well supported by family/others or has occupying +2
6.0 Child or Young Person’s application Points
As defined in the DFG Regulations +10
FOCUS OF SCARBOROUGH BOROUGH COUNCIL’S PARTNERSHIP PANEL
The role of the Panel would be:
Examine and approve the level of priority that should be given to complicated
Highlight emergency cases that need to be ‘fast-tracked’ for completion.
Ensure that DFG referrals being made are necessary and appropriate.
Look at alternative solutions to better meet the needs of clients (e.g. re-
housing where appropriate)
The Panel would also have a wider more strategic role in relation to the overall
Monitor the effectiveness of the prioritisation system
Ensure that sufficient resources are made available to support the process
Ensure that current and future needs are properly understood
Ensure that partners involved in the whole process work effectively together.
PROPOSED PROPERTY CHARGE
North Yorkshire Sub- Region – Policy on Property Charges
Until now there has no ability for Local Authorities to recover grant monies for works
carried out under the Disabled Grant Process. The DCLG’s paper The DFG – The
Package of Changes to Modernise the Programme has now provided consent for
local authorities to use their discretion to impose a limited charge on the property, if
the property is sold within 10 years from the certified date of the grant.
It may apply to owner-occupiers where the cost of the works is over £5000 and
subject to a maximum charge of £10,000. As the new package permits the local
authority to administer the charges on the adapted properties with complete
discretion the following policy will apply. Property Charges will apply to all grant
works that exceed £5000 (excluding any agency or professional fees)
The following exceptions will apply:
External and internal lifts and through floor lifts.
Permanent ramps within the existing curtilage of the property
Where a low level wheelchair accessible kitchen has been installed.
Where adapted bathing or toileting facilities have been provided within the
existing footprint of the property.
Where multiple works have been carried out on one application and the works
exceed £5,000 excluding any of the above named items then a charge shall
The charges will last for ten years from the certified date of the grant.
Multi application DFG’s
Where a client has several DFG successive awards, each, if over £5000, will have its
own land charge applied to it.
Repayment of grant
It is a condition of grant that if an owner (also being the recipient of the grant) to
which the application relates, disposes of the property (whether by sale, assignment,
transfer or otherwise) then they shall repay to the Council on demand the amount of
grant, over and above £5,000, that has been paid, subject to a maximum repayment
In addition, the normal conditions prescribed under the Housing Grants, Construction
& Regeneration Act 1996 that relate to Disabled Facilities Grants will remain. In the
event of a breach of a condition, the owner for the time being of the dwelling shall on
demand repay to the Council the amount of the grant.
Should exceptional circumstances arise having regard to an individual circumstance
the matter will be referred to the relevant Committee or Head of Service for a
decision as to whether to make such a demand for repayment or to demand a lesser
Review - This policy is subject to periodic review.