Government cuts funding for home adaptations… just as bedroom tax looms


theweek120by150The government has been criticised for cutting funding for the adaptations disabled people need to live independently in their own homes, just as it introduces its controversial new “bedroom tax”.

Last year, councils across England received £180 million from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for disabled facilities grants (DFGs), which pay for adaptations such as widening doors, installing ramps, and providing downstairs bathrooms.

They also benefited from a one-off £20 million grant from the Department of Health to help with DFGs.

This year, councils will again receive £180 million, a real cut in funding once the impact of inflation is taken into account.

The government also announced in 2010 that DFG funding for councils would no longer be “ring-fenced”, so local authorities do not have to spend the money on adaptations.

Campaigners fear that – at the same time DFG funding is being cut – the new bedroom tax will force thousands of disabled people to move into smaller homes.

The bedroom tax – which will see benefits cut if a household in social housing is judged to have more bedrooms than it needs – was introduced on 1 April, just four days after the Conservative housing minister Mark Prisk confirmed that there would only be £180 million in DFG funding in 2013-14.

Sue Bott, director of development for Disability Rights UK, said the DFG funding cut was “disappointing” and seemed to be a “very short-sighted approach”.

She said: “If disabled people are forced to move out of already-adapted dwellings, the chances are that given the lack of accessible housing, they will have to move to somewhere that has not been adapted and will require further adaptations.”

She said that DFGs often save councils money, by reducing the amount of care and support disabled people need in their own homes.

A DCLG spokesman has so far declined to comment on the funding cut, other than to claim that it was not a “cut” because the £180 million figure had been announced “years ago”.

Prisk had earlier claimed in a statement that the coalition was “protecting” the DFG budget.

He said: “For many people, the security of being able to stay in your own home in difficult times can have a real impact on their health and wellbeing. That’s why we’ve protected the disabled facilities grant.”

The coalition has been criticised before for failing to produce any measures to tackle the shortage of accessible housing.

Its 78-page Laying the Foundations strategy, launched in November 2011, only mentioned disability or disabled people six times, and offered no new measures to increase the availability of accessible housing for working-age disabled people, or to make it easier to secure DFGs.

The nearest it came was to repeat a pledge to protect current levels of government spending on DFGs until 2014-15.

3 April 2013