What does good mean? - Paul's blog

Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) have now been around for nearly three decades. In most of that time they have been very much seen as a housing function with pretty straightforward metrics: keep waiting times short, average grants low and grant completions high. There have been no real comparators for a while but taking less than 6 months with an average grant of around 6k and a fully committed budget meant you were probably doing a good job.

For the last couple of years DFG has been funded by the Department of Health and pooled with other health and social care budgets within the Better Care Fund. In many areas this means that commissioners are starting to look more closely at home adaptations and the potential to support more disabled people to remain living independently in the community. In turn, outcomes are becoming more important than outputs leading to conversations about how best to spend increasing budgets – and particularly in cases where the estimated costs exceed the current DFG maximum grant of £30k.

The number of maximum grants approved across England has steadily decreased over the last decade and there are many local authorities that don’t approve any. I think it’s unlikely that demand has decreased, and so this must be down to informal local policies. Of course, a formal policy of refusing maximum grants would clearly be unlawful, but with the discretion that Councils have under the Regulatory Reform Order it’s not appropriate to completely disregard costs over £30k either.

The recent report from the University of Leeds highlighted how DFGs of over £100k can be considered good value for money when you take into account the health and social care costs of the alternatives.

Later this year we’ll have the social value calculator, that HACT are developing with a group of Home Improvement Agencies, to put values on outcomes. We’re also setting up a DFG Analytics portal which will allow local authorities to benchmark their performance and learn from others (book a webinar place) and publishing guidance on delivering more complex adaptations.

I don’t think there’s ever been more recognition of the role that housing can play in supporting health and social care - just last week Jeremy Hunt was talking about investing NHS funds in eradicating damp and mould in Council Housing. It’s a massive opportunity, but we need to think not just of what health and social care can do for us, but what we can do for health and social care.