Our collection of disabled facilities grant (DFG) myths aims to break the barrier of misinformation regarding the scope of DFGs, showing the flexibility of the grant and the possibilities of what you can do using DFGs, rather than showing what you can't do.
Myth no. 1 - You have to be on benefits to qualify for grant assistance
The DFG means test is a based upon a mix of income and savings so that an assessed contribution is based on a combination of the two. There is an implied assumption that income can generate a loan so that it is possible to have relatively large savings and a limited income and still get a grant.
Myth no. 2 - The DFG will reduce the value of your home
Most grants are for stair lifts or showers, the installation of which will make very little difference to the value of your home. In fact many adaptations can add value in that often services are upgraded as a result of the adaptation.
Myth no. 3 - Assured Shorthold tenants aren’t entitled to receive a DFG
Section 19(5) of the legislation does indeed refer to certain types of tenancy only, but it is prefaced by the word ‘includes’. This means that as a matter of law it is arguable that the list is not exhaustive. This means that Assured Shorthold tenancies can be considered on the merits of each case.
Myth no. 4 - You have to have an Occupational Therapist assessment to receive a grant
Department for Communities and Local Government made it clear that an occupational therapy assessment is not a legislative requirement, “The DFG legislation does not specify that an occupational therapist needs to be used in every case to assess needs.” Advice from the College of Occupational Therapists (Minor adaptations without delay: A practical guide and technical specifications for housing associations) has emphasised this point. The Social Services authority does have to be consulted with the housing authority making the final decision. Through this approach Occupational Therapist’s scarce resources can be targeted at complex cases.
Myth no. 5 - You are not allowed to move for five (or more) years (i.e. you are prohibited from doing so) if you have a DFG completed or you have to pay it all back.
The certificates that you sign with the grant application are about an intention at the time of signature to stay for the designated period not whether you actually do continue to live in the property. If your circumstances change, for instance you want to downsize or go into residential or extra care, then in these circumstances the grant cannot be reclaimed. However the Local Authority can place a local land charge on the property for grants between £5k and £15k although these are at the discretion of each local authority.
Myth no. 6 - Discretionary grants aren’t permissible
The Regulatory Reform Order 2002 allows for local authorities to offer discretionary grants using the money received from central government for the DFG programme. The scope of the legislation offers great flexibility in what is delivered, from enabling people to move home to paying for equipment, preventative schemes which stop or delay conditions becoming worse to assistive technology. Clients can be supported with home repairs and energy efficiency measures as part of the grant. The only stipulation is that the policy should be laid out within a private sector housing policy and that mandatory applicants are not disadvantaged by the policy.
As local authorities have this discretion, they cannot have a blanket policy that says they will never use it. They must have a mechanism for considering exceptions otherwise they will be ‘fettering their discretion’ and open to challenge.
Myth no. 7 - You have to use the contractor appointed by the Local Authority
Applicants are entitled to use their own contractors to quote for the work. You have to get at least 2 quotes for the work and the Council will only pay for the work once they are satisfied it is completed to an adequate standard. When using your own contractor, you are responsible as an employer for ensuring that they have the correct insurances in place. You can also do the work yourself but are only eligible to claim for the cost of materials.
Myth no. 8 - Heating repairs or replacement aren’t eligible under a DFG unless you have a prescribed illness
The legislation doesn’t mention the illness of the person; it states that an existing heating system can be improved to suit the needs of the disabled occupant. If the system is unsuitable or one doesn’t exist then new provision can be considered. So all applicants for grant could have their heating systems considered as part of the grant assessment. It would be for the local authority to decide if it was ‘necessary and appropriate’ to do so.
See section 23 part i of HGCRA legislation.
Myth no. 9 - Applicants are only allowed one grant
Each grant stands alone, so if your needs change and your condition deteriorates then you are entitled to another grant. Eligible applicants are able to get successive grants up to the statutory limit in these circumstances.
If there is a client contribution, then that will be reduced by any previously assessed contribution assuming they went ahead with the grant and it is paid within the grant condition period (usually ten years).
It is expedient to advise clients to go ahead with a grant application even if their contribution towards the costs of works exceeds the actual cost leading to a nil contribution. If they do this, then any subsequent grant applications will be reduced by the costs of work included in the previous grant. For more detail of this policy see the DFG Good Practice Guide section 12/13.
Myth no. 10 - You can never have a stair lift if you’ve got a diagnosis of epilepsy, learning disability, developmental delay, dementia, amputation etc.
A DFG is granted according to the individual needs of the eligible person, it is not based on their medical diagnosis. What is important is how the condition affects them, something that will vary in each case. A judgement is then made, employing a risk assessment tool (in consultation with the client) to evidence and inform the decision.
Myth no. 11 - If the Housing Authority say that you have to use them as your agent, then you have no choice.
The grant application is in the name of the client and they can employ an agent whose services can be charged as part of the grant according to The Housing Renewal Grants (Services and Charges) order 1996 (1996 No. 2889). The Local Authority does not have the power to specify who the client chooses to carry out this function.
Do you have other DFG myths? Please send them to Doug Stem and we'll add them to our growing list.