The Regulatory Reform Order
A short explanation of how they are linked
Currently disabled facilities grants (DFGs) are governed by the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996. This Act explicitly covers mandatory DFGs offering assistance once the recommendation has fulfilled the criteria of an adaptation being ‘necessary and appropriate’ and ‘reasonable and practical’. They also have to satisfy a Test of Resources looking at their income and savings which determines whether they will have to contribute towards a grant.
In 2002 the government brought in the Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance)(England and Wales) Order 2002 which provide freedom and opportunities for the Local Authority to address housing issues. This Order had important implications for local housing authorities because it repeals much of the existing prescriptive legislation governing the provision of renewal grants to homeowners and replaces it with a new wide-ranging power to provide assistance for housing renewal.
See below links to the legislation and guidance.
In 2008-9 the government extended the scope of the RRO to include use of the DFG money. This enables the authorities to use specific DFG funding for wider purposes.
Use of DFG funding for revenue purposes
Creating greater flexibility within the fund, it allows an authority to address issues on a wider preventative basis that can’t be covered using mandatory DFG. The adoption and publication of a policy for housing assistance is a requirement of the RRO before assistance can be offered. The scope of the order is very wide and allows the Council to decide whether it provides grants, loans, advice etc for the purpose of repairing, improving, extending, converting or adapting housing accommodation.
The government are increasing the amount given to Local Authorities significantly in the coming years. In 2016/17 the amount is rising from £220m to £395m reaching £500m in 2019/20. The expectation is that the powers under the RRO will be used to allow authorities to be more flexible in how the money is spent. The DFG monies are now contained within the Better Care Fund (BCF) and it is expected that health priorities will become more important in the way DFG is spent, so that delayed transfers of care and readmission to hospital, which are key health priorities, could be supported using some of the DFG finance. Housing options advice and support with moving is another important issue that could be funded using the RRO.
Preparing a policy under the RRO housing renewal
Examples already in use include
Somerset- Where DFG money has been top-sliced to focus on non means tested minor adaptations facilitating discharge and keeping people independent in the home.
Croydon- Where a fund has been made available to the HIA allowing them to support anybody coming out of hospital. The cost is fully met by the fund and is not means tested. It can include moving furniture, cleaning the property to ensuring there is adequate heating.
Wigan- The CCG has given additional money to the authority to facilitate non means tested adaptations for people being discharged from hospital or at risk of being readmitted.
Gloucestershire- Funding is used to provide Modular Ramps offering a quicker, more efficient and better service for the client. Each district contributes from the DFG fund and the equipment can be recycled for future use. The ramps are fitted using the Community Equipment Service without a means test.
Lichfield- The local authority has approved use of a Home Adaptation grant that can be used in place of a DFG allowing for a quicker less bureaucratic use of DFG monies.
Cornwall - Cornwall Home Solutions(CHS) introduced a new form of assistance called the Accessible Homes Assistance to help fast track works up to £5K. There is no means test and the application process is much leaner. They signed a Service Level Agreement with Tremorvah Industries to secure a single provider of straight and curved stairlifts in Cornwall. Both of these initiatives have led to a reduction in timescales by 20 working days and has reduced the average cost of a straight stairlift by circa £50 and a curved stairlift by circa £250.
The Accessible Homes Assistance also offers an alternative to adapting the home by funding specialist equipment where it’s more cost effective than an adaptation. An example being provision of a wheelchair riser which enables a wheelchair user to access facilities within a standard kitchen rather than adapting a kitchen by provision of high/low worktops, high/low cupboard units etc. CHS has worked with colleagues in Social Care and the Cornwall Wheelchair Service to establish a working protocol to ensure that a joint assessment is undertaken which considers the need for adaptations to the home environment and whether provision of specialist wheelchair equipment would best meet that need at reduced cost.
If you know of other examples, we'd love to hear from you. Send us an email.