This month we meet the winners from the National Healthy Housing Awards.
Process a DFG
The Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) was introduced in 1989. Originally, it was one of several housing grants available to fund repairs, improvements and adaptations. All the other grants have now gone, and the DFG is part of the Better Care Fund; a pooled budget seeking to integrate health, social care and, through the DFG, housing services.
This page uses extracts from the 2022 DFG Guidance along with other tools, resources and other good practice to give you the definitive guide to efficiently compiling a DFG Application.
Home Improvement Agency
Local authorities should consider providing a Home Improvement Agency service to offer practical help to carry out home adaptations and improvements. The service offered varies but normally covers help in diagnosing issues, identifying solutions, assisting in raising money to cover the costs (including grant applications), selecting a builder, and ensuring that work is carried out properly. Some agencies are independent non-profit organisations, some are run by housing associations or private companies, and others operate in-house within a local authority.
To accredit your service as a Home Improvement Agency, contact Foundations.
It’s a simple process, and it’s free!
Timescales and priority
There are 5 key stages of delivering a home adaptation.
- Stage 0: first contact with services
- Stage 1: first contact to assessment and identification of the relevant works;
- Stage 2: identification of the relevant works to submission of the formal grant application
- Stage 3: grant application to grant approval
- Stage 4: approval of grant to completion of works.
The timescales for moving through these stages will depend upon the urgency and complexity of the adaptations required. More urgent cases should be prioritised for action, but larger and more complex schemes will take longer to complete. The following table sets out best practice targets, which should be met in 95% of cases:
|Target timescales (working days)|
|Type||Stage 1||Stage 2||Stage 3||Stage 4||Total|
|Urgent & Simple||5||25||5||20||55|
|Non-urgent & Simple||20||50||20||40||130|
|Urgent & Complex||20||45||5||60||130|
|Non-urgent & Complex||35||55||20||80||180|
It is recommended that authorities use a triage system to make an initial assessment of the complexity and urgency of a case. A good triage system will help everyone gain a shared understanding of the likely timescales for delivery. It will also enable the right team with the right skills to properly assess the case.
See our guide: Assess a DFG
Authorities are recommended to treat cases as urgent in the following circumstances:
- Coming out of hospital and at risk
- Living alone and at risk
- Severe cognitive dysfunction and at risk
- Living with a carer who is elderly or disabled
- Living without heating or hot water and at risk
- Limited life expectancy
Categorising complexity and urgency at this early stage will set the target timescales for the rest of the process. However, this should be kept under review as circumstances change or if further information is uncovered during the assessment.
We have developed an experimental version of our triage tool which will calculate a target completion date based on complexity and urgency.
Public information and self-assessment
AdaptMyHome.org.uk includes general information about DFG and home adaptations.
It also includes a guided self-assessment that helps people to consider:
- whether they would benefit from making adaptations to their home;
- if they might be eligible to apply for a DFG;
- whether they might be better to consider moving to somewhere more suitable; and
- their estimated contribution towards the costs through means testing.
By entering their postcode they can also find the contact details of their local authority or forward the details of their self-assessment.
Local authorities are able to register and update their details.
Proof of ownership
The Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act requires the local housing authority to be “satisfied that the applicant has, or proposes to acquire, an owner’s interest in every parcel of land on which the relevant works are to be carried out.”
There is no specific requirement for the housing authority to obtain proof of ownership other than the owner’s certificate but it is good practice to cross reference the details with the Land Registry.
There is also no requirement for the housing authority to seek permission from the applicant’s mortgage provider or to ensure they have adequate household insurance, although they should advise the applicant of the need to inform both.
A land registry search is a straight-forward process that should be done by an admin officer in the early stages of an application.
There should be no reason why this search has to be carried out by a different team or department – it’s as quick to do the search as to send an email to request it.
Land registry searches
The vast majority of homes are now registered with the Land Registry, and they have online services that allow you to easily find and download ownership details for your file. There’s both:
The means test for DFG largely mirrors the system of calculating entitlement to Housing Benefit. It is quite complicated to use but those in receipt of certain means-tested benefits are ‘passported’ to a full grant and will not have to make a contribution towards the cost of work. These ‘passporting’ benefits are:
- Universal Credit
- Income Support
- Income-based Employment and Support Allowance (not contribution-based ESA)
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (not contribution-based JSA)
- Guarantee Pension Credit (not Savings Pension Credit alone)
- Working Tax Credit and/or Child Tax Credit (where your annual income for the purposes of the tax credits assessment was below £15,050)
- Housing Benefit
Applications for disabled children are also passported to a full grant.
Preliminary means test for DFG
The DFG means test is in place to ensure that DFG funding reaches those people who are on the lowest incomes and least able to afford to pay for the adaptations themselves.
Authorities should consider a preliminary means test for DFG at an early stage. It can be frustrating for both applicants and staff to discover at a late stage that the DFG means test indicates they will receive little or no financial assistance. A preliminary enquiry about resources (e.g. through a self-service online portal such as adaptmyhome.org.uk) can short-circuit these delays and may encourage the disabled person to pursue other solutions.
Accessing social security data
Benefits data can be shared with local authorities, to help decide if a person is entitled to a DFG on the basis of being in receipt of benefits, or having a low income.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) provides this data to LAs for use in the administration of Disabled Facilities Grant to reduce the burden on LAs by not having to contact DWP teams, by a number of means, to gather this information.
The data can be access through an online Customer Information System (CIS) as outlined in DWP Guidance.
Your authority will also need to sign up to a data-sharing memorandum of understanding. (Opens a new window) It needs to be signed by the LA Chief Executive and will usually be available through the Housing Benefit team leader.
Social care financial assessment
The last 3 reviews of the DFG means test have recommended using an alternative – the financial assessment used for social care. In May 2020 we hosted a webinar to look at how the social care assessment works and how it could apply to DFGs.
Online means test calculator
Speak to our Regional Advisors
Our team of Regional Advisors are at the heart of what we do – providing advice and support to Local Authorities and Home Improvement Agencies. And because we’re funded by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities our everyday support is free of charge.
Whether it’s a question about the DFG legislation, you need advice on how to commission a HIA or anything in between – we’re here to help.