Our latest research reveals impact of adapted homes on independent living

An investigation by Foundations has revealed the impact that government support for home adaptations can have on supporting independent living and delaying a move into residential care.  

It shows that those who have had adaptations and later move into care do so some four years later than those who have not had adaptations carried out via Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG). 

DFG – the main source of government financial support for adaptations – not only helps people to stay in their own homes for longer, it can also generate substantial financial savings. The average DFG costs less than £7,000 compared with a residential care place costing around £29,000 a year.

Our research has found that local authorities are starting to recognise the impact that DFG makes on their wider care costs. This comes at the time when the absorption of DFG into the pooled NHS Better Care Fund, managed jointly by social services and NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, could further show the huge social and economic benefits that home adaptations like a ramp, stairlift or level access shower can bring.

Some £220m of DFG funding has been paid into the Fund for 2015-16 and while government guidance indicates adaptations should be considered in future spending plans, this research highlights the benefit of DFG-type work for increasingly pressured NHS and council budgets.

Foundations submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to all local authorities in England with social care responsibilities. The request asked councils to look at the care needs of people depending on whether they had previously applied for a DFG to pay for major adaptations. 

For people who have had to move into residential care, those who had previously received a DFG on average moved just before their 80th birthday and stayed there for two years. Those who hadn’t applied for a DFG moved when they were 76 and stayed in residential care for another six years. 

The investigation also showed that people who need care at home require fewer hours of home help following adaptations – saving around £1,300 per year on average.

The findings come at a significant anniversary – it is 25 years since DFG was introduced to offer financial support for home adaptations. It marked a breakthrough for all those working to promote independent living. 

Paul Smith, Director of Foundations, said:“It makes sense that adapting your home means that you can live there independently for longer, but this research indicates that modifications such as stairlifts, level access showers and ramps really do help to delay people moving into care homes – by four years.

“We have an ageing population and this brings growing financial pressure on both the public purse and the finances of individuals. That’s why enabling people to live in their own homes has never been more important – home adaptations via DFG offer a cost-effective and empowering solution.” 

The research highlighted how many councils can now link adaptations to social care spend despite most using different recording systems that could not be readily linked in the past. 

With DFG funding now part of the Better Care Fund, this joining up of data will help commissioners look for evidence of impact to back up increasingly tough spending decisions. 

Paul added: “It’s a requirement of the Better Care Fund for the NHS and Social Care to link their information system using the NHS Number. I would like to see this extended to the IT systems used to manage DFG applications and other housing interventions so that all local authorities can track the benefits and also start to target people who may be at premature risk of moving into residential care.”

Home improvement and handyperson services, often known as Care & Repair or Staying Put agencies, help people to carry out adaptations to their home, including applying for a DFG and arranging the works. 

Download the research