Report reveals DFG impact on keeping people out of care

Report reveals DFG impact on keeping people out of care

The study, published by Foundations, the Government-funded national body for home improvement agencies, looked at how councils delivered DFGs during 2018-19.

It comes as record amounts of funding are allocated for DFGs via the Better Care Fund: £505m in 2019-20 and the same for 2020-21.

Key findings include:

  • DFG funding was used to support around 53,500 people in England, primarily via adaptations
  • The average local authority spent £1.2m, adapted 110 homes and kept 11 people out of care homes
  • On average, each council had five FTE staff dedicated to administering DFGs, spent £9,750 per DFG and took 116 days from grant application to completing the work
  • Councils that use a home improvement agency, charge a fee to provide additional support and have a Regulatory Reform Order policy in place are 25% more efficient at delivering DFGs

The study, Disabled Facilities Grants: Structures & Staffing, involving more than 200 local authorities, looked at each element in the DFG process to see how ‘inputs’ lead to the ‘outputs’ needed to achieve the desired goals.

It found there was a generally positive correlation between the number of staff employed and the number of homes adapted – but bigger isn’t always better. It also comes down to the type of staff employed.

For example, an increasing number of district councils are employing occupational therapists and trusted assessors. One authority reported they had cut their backlog of DFG assessments from 450 to 130 within a year as a result of bringing an OT into the team.

Councils can use DFG more flexibly if they set out their plans in a Housing Assistance Policy. These polices were originally introduced by the Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England and Wales) Order 2002 and are often called “RRO policies”.

They allows councils to use their discretion to do things like topping up DFGs over and above the upper limit of £30,000, removing means testing for lower cost works or fast- tracking adaptations for hospital discharge. Some 85% of local authorities now have an RRO policy compared with just 53% in 2016.

The report also shows councils that use a home improvement agency – either in-house or commissioned externally – and charge a fee (that’s included in the grant) are able to support more DFG spend than those that don’t.

It explains: ‘Their [agencies] role in the delivery of the DFG includes using the expertise of caseworkers, technical officers – and increasingly occupational therapists and trusted assessors – working together to identify the needs of the individual and help with the provision of aids and adaptations to improve the person’s wellbeing.’

Paul Smith, director of Foundations, says: ‘Through our research we have found that councils that have a home improvement agency, charge a fee and have a regulatory reform order are more efficient and effective at delivering DFGs.

But overall more staff are needed to fulfil the demand that is out there. That’s because despite annual increases to the DFG budget, demand for adaptations has often outstripped supply and this is set to continue as the population ages.

‘It’s therefore vital that local authorities do everything they can to maximise the impact of DFG to support the most vulnerable people – it’s a key part of the prevention and early intervention agenda.’

The report recommends: 

  • The smallest local authorities should consider partnering with neighbours to improve the efficiency of DFG delivery
  • Councils should charge a fee which is used to employ sufficient staff to enable delivery of an efficient and effective service
  • All local authorities should provide proper support through an agency-led approach to DFG delivery that is person-centred and focused on outcomes.
  • Any additional revenue funding should be invested into agency services.

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE