The government has abandoned its pledge to consult on three improvements to the scheme that funds disabled people to make access improvements to their homes, Disability News Service can reveal.
Ministers promised in their People at the Heart of Care white paper in December 2021 to consult on the three changes to the disabled facilities grant (DFG) scheme “in 2022”.
But the Department of Health and Social Care has now admitted – in a response to a freedom of information request – that it has abandoned those promises.
It has also apparently abandoned plans to set up a new service to make minor repairs and changes in disabled people’s homes.
One consultation was to examine proposals 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 would 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 was allocated to local authorities to “help ensure better alignment with local demand so that more adaptations reach those who need them most”.
But all three consultations have been scrapped.
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 its response to the Disability News Service freedom of information request, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the three consultations “are not currently being taken forward”.
It pointed to a parliamentary response from care minister Helen Whately, who said last month – in response to questions about the consultations from Labour’s Seema Malhotra – that the extra DFG funding would “enable local areas to fund supplementary services that are agile and help people stay independent, support hospital discharge, and make minor adaptations”.
Whately added: “Local areas already have discretion on how they manage the grant, for example, they can increase the cap on a case-by-case basis or in line with a locally published housing assistance policy.
“They can also choose to waive the means test for grants costing under a certain amount.
“As with all aspects of the Disabled Facilities Grants, Government will continue to keep these reforms under review.”
The freedom of information response said that the government’s Next Steps to Put People at the Heart of Care policy paper, published in April, “provides more detail on the way in which the Government intends to deliver the services (for minor repairs and changes in people’s home) to which you refer”.
But there appears to be nothing in that document that relates to setting up a new minor repairs service, another promise which appears to have been abandoned.
DHSC had failed to explain by noon today (Thursday) why the three consultations were scrapped or to confirm that the new minor repairs service had also been scrapped.
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