The government has refused to explain why it has not met its pledge to consult on three planned improvements to the scheme that funds disabled people to make access improvements to their homes.
The People at the Heart of Care white paper, described as the government’s “10-year vision for adult social care” in England, promised in December 2021 to consult on the three improvements to the disabled facilities grant (DFG) scheme “in 2022”.
But none of those consultations have yet been launched, 18 months after the white paper was published.
One pledge was to increase the upper limit for a DFG for an individual adaptation, currently set at £30,000 in England – although councils can increase this on a case-by-case basis – which will mean “that more people who need the grant across the country will be able to access it”.
An independent review of DFGs, commissioned by the government, recommended an increase to the upper limit in December 2018.
Another pledge was to simplify the means test underpinning the DFG system, which the government said was “complex and can be difficult to navigate”.
And the third was to examine how DFG funding is allocated to local authorities to “help ensure better alignment with local demand so that more adaptations reach those who need them most”.
Consultations on all three were supposed to take place in 2022, but none of them have yet been launched by the government.
The white paper also included plans to fund a new service to make minor repairs and changes in disabled people’s homes to “help them stay safe and independent and reduce demand for more substantial adaptations through the DFG”.
The four proposals were described in the white paper as “the next important steps towards our 10 year vision for transforming the role that housing plays in adult social care”.
The government has increased funding for DFGs from £220 million in 2015-16 to £505 million in 2019-20 and £573 million in 2022-23, although the 2018 review pointed to concerns that local authority contributions towards DFGs had fallen and so the number of homes adapted had not significantly increased.
In April this year, the government announced another £102 million in funding over two years.
In response last week to a written question from Labour’s Imran Hussain about the consultation on increasing the upper DFG limit, care minister Helen Whately said only that the government would “continue to keep the upper limit under review”.
She added: “Local areas also already have discretion to increase the cap on the grant on a case-by-case basis or in line with a locally published housing assistance policy.”
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) refused to explain why it had failed to launch the three consultations, although it said the government would continue to keep the upper limit, funding allocation and means test under review.
It also failed to comment on progress on the minor repairs service.
But a DHSC spokesperson said: “Providing high quality, safe, and suitable homes remains central to our vision for the adult social care system.
“Suitable housing can help people stay independent and healthy for longer and reduces their need to draw on care and support.
“As part of our social care reforms, we are continuing to provide funding to support people to remain independent at home.
“In addition to the £573 million invested annually in the disabled facilities grant, we are making £102 million of new money available for local housing authorities to increase their funding for home improvement services.”
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