The government has announced a seven per cent increase in the annual payments it makes to local authorities in England to help fund adaptations to disabled people’s homes.
The Communities and Local Government department said it would give £167.3 million to councils to help them fund disabled facilities grants (DFG).
The DFG programme should help about 40,000 disabled people make improvements to their homes this year, such as installing a downstairs bathroom, ramps or wider doorways, or improving lighting.
Lord McKenzie, the communities minister, said: “No one wants to go through the upheaval of moving house when it is avoidable. This money enables people to stay in their own home, while enjoying an improved quality of life.”
The increased funding was welcomed by the disability charity RADAR, which said DFGs often prevent disabled people having to move into residential care.
But it called on the government to stop means-testing the grants, which “can cause great hardship to those whose claims are turned down”.
And RADAR said there would be less need for disabled people to apply for DFGs if the government fulfilled its pledge to make “lifetime homes standards” – accepted housing design principles in areas such as accessibility and adaptability – mandatory for all new homes.
December’s pre-Budget report said any move to make them mandatory would now not occur until 2013 “at the earliest”.
Liz Sayce, RADAR’s chief executive, said the grant funding was “very welcome”, but she added: “We would like to take this opportunity to remind the government of the vital importance of lifetime homes standards in guaranteeing that sufficient accessible housing will be available, thus reducing the number of disabled people facing long waits for suitable accommodation.
“Building to lifetime homes standards brings great benefits for small additional costs, and yet the standards have not yet been adopted.”
1 April 2010