Disabled facilities grants in England and Wales
What is the disabled facilities grant?
The disabled facilities grant is a mandatory ‘means-tested’ financial grant, to help meet the cost of adapting a property (can include mobile homes or houseboats) in which a disabled adult or child lives. The adaptations must meet the specific needs of the disabled person, and those needs have to be assessed as being necessary and appropriate. Assessment is normally carried out by an occupational therapist. The proposed adaptations have to be reasonable and practicable in relation to the property.
Grants are administered via local authorities and they also have discretionary powers allowing them to provide assistance.
Mandatory disabled facilities grant
The intention is to ensure the disabled person has adequate access into and around the home and to ensure there are adequate facilities within the home.
- providing ramps, widening external/internal doors, shallow steps
- improving controls for heating/lighting
- adapting, or providing, suitable washing/bathing/showering/toilet facilities
- ensuring the disabled person can move around and access parts of the home so they can look after someone else
- facilitating the preparation of food and cooking in the kitchen
- making sure there is adequate access to a shared family room
- ensuring access to, or providing, a room used to sleep in
- providing a safer environment for the disabled person and others living in the home
- installing a stair lift or a ‘through the floor’ lift
Occasionally an extension to the property might be suggested to ensure the needs of the disabled person are met.
In England the maximum grant available is £30,000. In Wales the maximum grant available is £36,000. In Northern Ireland the maximum grant is £25,000.
Discretionary powers of local authorities
Local authorities can use discretionary powers to meet additional costs – there is no maximum to discretionary grants. This assistance may be in the form of:
- a grant
- a loan
- providing materials
- providing labour
- providing advice
or any combination of the above.
These discretionary powers also allow a local authority to provide additional adaptations. For example:
- Welfare – providing access to an adjacent garden or safe play area for a disabled child, particularly whilst work is being carried out under a mandatory grant.
- Accommodation – usually for work being carried out that is more than strictly necessary under a mandatory grant, such as making a property slighter bigger when it is already considered suitable for a disabled person.
- Employment – perhaps adapting a room to enable a disabled person who is considered housebound, to work from home if they are able to do so.
Who is considered to be disabled?
- Has a sight, hearing or substantial speech impairment
- Has a learning difficulty or mental health disorder or impairment of any kind
- Is physically substantially disabled by illness, injury, impairment present since birth or otherwise
- Is, or could be, registered with the social services department as being disabled
Who is eligible to apply?
The applicant must be:
- An owner-occupier
- A private tenant
- A landlord with a tenant who is disabled
- A local authority tenant
- A housing association tenant
The applicant need not be the disabled person so, for example, a parent, guardian or foster parent might apply on behalf of a child.
How to apply
Check with your local authority as to how they initiate and process applications. The initial approach would usually be to get an application form from social services or the housing department. The relevant department cannot refuse to give an application form.
Some authorities offer the services of an agency that will oversee the process from beginning to end.
An application will not be accepted once any work has started; nor will a grant be offered if work is started before approval is given.
If the disabled person lives in a local authority property, a housing association property or is a tenant of a registered social landlord, some local authorities have different ways of processing requests. In this instance the applicant should contact the landlord first.
Who decides what adaptations are needed?
Once the initial application form has been completed, arrangements will be made for someone (usually an occupational therapist) to visit the home so they can carry out an assessment.
Prior to the visit, it would be useful to have a good idea of what adaptations are thought necessary, to help ensure that nothing is inadvertently overlooked. It is also important to plan ahead; for example with a young child, consider what their needs may be in future, it may not be possible to go back and get another grant a few years later. Are there any cultural or religious considerations to be taken into account? How might other family members be affected? For example, if a disabled child needs attention regularly during the night, it might be important that they are not sharing a bedroom with a sibling.
The best assessments usually happen where there is good working partnership between the occupational therapist and the family.
In some areas, there may be a long waiting list to get an appointment with an occupational therapist.
What happens next?
Whilst the process may vary from one authority to another, an example of what will happen is:-
- There will be a preliminary ‘test of resources’ - the ‘means test’. The intention of the means test is to determine how much (if anything) the applicant will have to pay towards the cost of the work. The test will involve the checking of all financial and benefits information provided by the applicant. Where the disabled person is an adult, the circumstances of both the disabled adult and their spouse or partner (if applicable) will be taken into account. There is no means testing for families of disabled children under 19 years of age.
- Means testing will take into account savings above a certain limit. Certain benefits including Disability Living Allowance and Income Support are generally ignored.
- If you have a partner, your combined income will be assessed jointly. Capital is included in the means test. The first £6,000 of savings is disregarded.
- A range of premiums and allowances is used for all essential outgoings, for example, rent/mortgage and personal expenditure. Actual outgoings are not taken into consideration.
- Depending on the outcome of this assessment the amount of financial assistance offered can vary from 0 to 100% of the cost.
- Plans and specifications will be drawn up, which will usually involve several people. For major work it is advisable to have a qualified architect or surveyor involved. Their fees can be included in the cost of the work needed.
- Agreement will be made on the plans and specification.
- Estimates to get the work undertaken will be obtained – at least two are required.
- The grant application is submitted together with all relevant documents. It is important to make a formal application, because the local authority is obligated to give a decision within six months of receiving the formal application. The local authority cannot refuse to accept a formal application but this does not mean the application will necessarily be successful.
- The financial contribution, if any, will be determined.
- Assuming the application is successful; the work can begin and must be completed within 12 months of grant approval.
- When completed, the work will be checked to ensure it is satisfactory.
- Any financial contribution will be paid, and then the authority will pay the balance.
It is important to be aware that the whole process can be very lengthy.
Conditions of accepting the grant
The grant conditions are supplied with the grant approval. For most people the main one relates to a certificate, which will have already been signed, stating that the intention is that the property being adapted will be the main residence of the disabled person for (usually) five years. It can be shorter if there are health problems or other special reasons.
Is a disabled facilities grant needed?
Disabled facilities grants should not be used for minor adaptations where the cost would be less than £1,000.
Some authorities will not use the disabled facilities grant, for local authority tenants, where the cost is less than £2,000.
The process and local prioritisation for administering disabled facilities grants can vary from one local authority to another. It is therefore important to ask your local authority what their policies and procedures are.
Some authorities will have one department or agency that oversees the whole procedure from the outset, which means the applicant has only has one point of contact. Others will not.
If you are refused a Disabled Facilities Grant, or are unhappy with the amount you have been awarded, you can appeal against the decision. Ask your local council for their appeals and complaints procedure.
If, after having appealed to the council, you are still not happy with the outcome, you may register your complaint with the Local Government Ombudsman.
Contact your local authority for further information.
This information was last reviewed June 2010.