Foundations Webinar, Tuesday 25 January 2022
How to 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.
Please see below for the current official guidance and our range of resources to help local authorities and home improvement agencies.
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.” In practice, this means gaining proof of ownership.
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.
- a public portal (opens a new window) where you can carry out searches and pay as you go (£3 per search); and
- a business e-service (opens a new window) where you can set-up an account and pay by direct debit.
In either case, it’s a straight-forward process that can 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.
Across the UK there continue to be delays in the delivery of minor and major adaptations across all housing tenures. In recognition of this continuing issue, the Royal College of Occupational Therapy (RCOT) commissioned the Housing Learning and Improvement Network (Housing LIN) to conduct a UK wide review of Minor Adaptations without Delay (2006). Foundations were part of the Steering Group for this work.
The new Adaptations Without Delay (opens a new window) guide sets out a better way of defining the assessment and delivery of adaptations based on complexity with an associated decision-making framework that guides the use of Trusted Assessors.
The overall aim of the guide is to reduce delays in the delivery of adaptations by providing tools that support a proportionate response. The guidance also ensures the specialist skills of occupational therapists can be used to work with the growing number of individuals whose circumstances are complex.
The guide and the framework are intended to be used at both a practitioner and a strategic level by personnel in occupational therapy services, Home Improvement Agencies, housing associations and other housing providers.
One of the outputs of the assessment will be a description of the required adaptations. It is important to record this information in a clear and consistent manner that others can follow.
In most DFG systems the assessment of need is carried out by an Occupational Therapist or Trusted Assessor. This should detail what is ‘necessary and appropriate’ to meet the needs of the disabled person.
This information should enable the housing team to confirm that the required adaptations are indeed ‘necessary and appropriate’ and then to decide whether they are ‘reasonable and practicable’ in the circumstances. See links below for examples of the checklists used in Nottinghamshire.
The form should focus on the specific needs of the disabled person rather than proposing a specific solution. The design and condition of the existing property are likely to influence what may be practicable to provide.
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.
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. (Opens an new window)
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.
DFG means test calculator
Foundations have developed a spreadsheet to help with the calculation (note it required the desktop version of Excel to run)
The process for applying for a disabled facilities grant (DFG) is complex with many parties involved in the process. Added to this budgets are normally stretched leading to strategies to conserve and manage the application process.
This has led to many authorities instituting methods of prioritising applications according to the following parameters
- Urgency of need
- Time Waited
- Funds available
Most councils do operate a system of prioritisation. Some use a points-based system that factors in time waiting alongside the urgency of the case. Others use a banded system where applicants are put into one of three categories and then prioritised according to when the application was received. This system is more transparent but is less flexible if people’s needs change.
A third approach is a combination of both approaches whereby points are allocated and the applicant is then put into a band.
Others use a simpler system whereby most cases are treated on a chronological basis but allow for urgent cases to be allocated straightaway.
Swale and other Kent authorities use the points-based system that has the time element included so that low priority cases don’t just languish as higher priority cases are seen. They also provide a questionnaire which they ask the client to complete at the assessment stage.