The Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) is a mandatory ‘means-tested’ financial grant. It helps meet the cost of adapting a property (including mobile homes and houseboats) where a disabled person lives. It is worth up to £30k in England.
For the purposes of the grant, a disabled person is someone who has a permanent disability which includes any sensory, cognitive, mental or physical impairment.
The grant can be used to fund materials, products, labour and advice. The adaptations must meet the specific needs of the disabled person and should reduce risks at home and increase independence.
The Local Authority
The DFG is awarded by the local authority and it is up to each individual local authority to decide how much money to allocate to the DFG every year. The DFG budget is not ring-fenced – so it may be used to pay for other important services (at the discretion of the local authority). Once the budget has been used, no further money will be available until the next financial year. We would advise anyone to contact their local authority to find how long they will have to wait before their DFG application can be processed and money committed to their project.
Before an award is granted the local authority will usually request an occupational therapist (OT) assessment. This will identify the applicant’s needs and verify that risks can only be reduced by adaptation, and not by the use of equipment and aids. The adaptation offered must also be reasonable and practicable.
Due to the restriction in funds, the solutions are financially led and aimed at minimising the cost of the work (in order to be able to support as many applicants as possible). The assessment will focus solely on the needs of the disabled person and by doing so will unfortunately not take into account the needs of the other residents living in the same property: For example:
- The only bath in the house will be replaced with a walk in shower instead of creating a new bathroom. A second bathroom will only be provided if the applicant is unable to access the current bathroom, and adapting the access to it will cost more than creating a new one.
- If the disabled person needs to have a bedroom on the ground floor, the local authority will seek to turn one of the reception rooms into a bed room, even if this means the family will no longer have a separate dining room (and sometimes families can be left without space for a dining table).
- A toilet on the ground floor will only be funded in situations where a stair lift cannot be installed, or if the applicant is incontinent and needs to use the toilet frequently and with urgency.
- Only one access to the house will be adapted, so access to the garden will not be funded in most cases (unless this is considered to be a substantial need).
In many areas people have to wait a long time before they receive the OT assessment visit (sometimes over a year). We recommend that in addition to speaking to your local authority to find out whether there is money available in this financial year, you also contact your Adult Social Care Team or Children with Disabilities Team to find out how long you will have to wait for the OT assessment visit. It may be worthwhile considering paying for a private OT to do this assessment for you, to speed up the whole process, but it is also important to check that the local authority will accept an assessment from a private OT.
Once the OT assessment has been completed and the applicant knows the scope of the work that needs to be undertaken, s/he then needs to get at least two estimates for the cost of the works. For major work, it’s advisable to involve a qualified architect or surveyor. Their fees can be included in the cost of the work needed.
The local authority has six months in which to get back to the applicant with a decision, telling them what their financial contribution, if any, will be.
You might not get any grant if you start work on your property before the council approves your application.
Other Relevant Information
In order to apply for the DFG you must be one of the following:
- An owner-occupier
- A private tenant (with the agreement of the landlord)
- A housing association tenant (with the agreement of the housing association)
- A landlord with a tenant with a disability
The grant is means tested
The means test determines how much, if anything, you will have to pay towards the cost of the work.
- If you are a disabled adult, you must provide financial and benefits information for you and your partner.
- There is no means testing for families of disabled children under 18.
- Certain benefits including Disability Living Allowance and Income Support are generally ignored.
- Only savings over £6,000 will be taken into account.
- Depending on the assessment, the amount of financial assistance offered can vary up to 100% of the cost.
The work covered by the DFG could include:
- providing ramps or shallow steps, widening doors
- improving controls for heating and lighting
- adapting or providing suitable washing, bathing or toilet facilities
- ensuring the disabled person can move around and access parts of the home so they can look after someone else
- facilitating the preparation of food and cooking in the kitchen
- making sure there is access to a shared family room
- ensuring access to, or providing, a room to sleep in
- providing a safer environment for the disabled person and others living in the home
installing a stair lift or a ‘through the floor’ lift
- creating an extension to meet the needs of the disabled person.
The grant does not cover:
- The cost of decorating (e.g. the cost of replacing all the bathroom tiles to match the new ones installed in the shower area, painting new doors, replacing the wash basin and WC if they are old but functional).
- Anything other than basic materials (e.g. white tiles, white plastic rails etc.)
Most local authorities will not consider:
- extending the property due to lack of space if you live in an owner occupied property – they will ask you move to a larger property.
- extending the property unless a lift cannot be installed and there is no room available on the ground floor to accommodate the disabled person.