Black Lives Matter, the experience of Covid and the growing number of stories about discriminations faced by ethnic communities in dealing with mainstream services has implications for the DFG. When the government included a question on ethnicity in its most recent DELTA questionnaire on the DFG programme, two thirds of local authorities could not answer the question. For many people with protected characteristics this means they don’t see themselves represented in the programme.  There is the saying that if you don’t count, you don’t count. Furthermore, because of the nature of the DFG programme there is evidence that people struggle to access culturally sensitive adaptations that work with their family structures and beliefs.  Even academic research into the experience of disabled individuals from ethnic communities is largely absent. Where local authorities do monitor the diversity of their clientele, there is some evidence that they fail to meet need amongst their local ethnic communities fairly or representatively.

This is an enormous challenge to a sector which has seen an enormous rise in the capital available to respond to need without a commensurate rise in the capacity to meet that need. DFG practitioners are being asked to deliver person-centred services without the training and support to understand that different people experience disability and barriers to access very differently. Nor are there the human resources available on the ground to construct culturally sensitive and appropriate services in collaboration with the community groups that represent local diversity.

Nevertheless, responding to the diverse needs of our community is becoming increasingly important when providing person-centred services. Especially as the pandemic has exposed what has been a reality for so many for so long, which is that people experience inequalities in health greater than the average. Despite people doing great work in places, the national picture is patchy. Recent work on the housing needs of older people from ethnic minorities in Kirklees notes how older people want adaptations to help them to retain independence in their home but face barriers in knowing how to receive these adaptations. It also recommends increasing the range of adaptations provided.

Prompted by the challenge Foundations will be doing some work on ethnicity, diversity and DFG. We will start with a focus group of local authorities able to demonstrate the reach of their DFG programme into their local communities. We hope to flush out the elements that make for a culturally sensitive service by listening to what they do and capturing best practice. I personally will start academically supervised research into the experience of people from ethnic communities of the DFG programme. I hope that Foundations will be able complement that with a look at how people from different backgrounds view and use their home. Later this year we will devote a Webinar to that work to contribute to the good work out there and promote it nationally, to provide services whereby everyone is counted, and everyone counts.

As a sector, we can’t paint a diverse picture without greater inclusivity, and responding to cultural diversity properly too. If you have any experience first-hand as an individual from an ethnic minority background who has had experience with Home Improvement Agencies or the Disabled Facilities Grant process, I’d love to hear from you. Please contact me at: [email protected]