Grant making for disabled facilities varies across Wales

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DISABLED people in Wales face a ‘postcode lottery’ as they wait for vital improvements to their homes.

Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that thousands of people with disabilities across the UK wait months just to be assessed for adaptation to their homes, and years to get the job done.

Delays can lead to terrible hardship – like a lack of kitchen facilities or showers – or even people unable to live in their own home until it can be made accessible.

A means-tested Disability Facilities Grant (DFG) may fund improvements, but Office of Investigative Journalism research found a postcode lottery in Wales, as applicants wait on average between a month and a year between first contact with a local authority for a home adaptation and their formal application recorded as received by the council in 2021/ 22.

The same data shows that the process could take anywhere from three months to almost two years (21 months in Monmouthshire) before work to adapt the houses is complete.

The Welsh Government has previously identified the grant as the main source of support for people with disabilities who are homeowners or live in private rental accommodation, but it is available for all types of accommodation.

Other council areas where the wait was at least a year or more are: Pembrokeshire, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Ceredigion, Blaenau Gwent and Newport.

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In England, those who wait the longest for the whole process to be completed are in Southend-on-Sea – where the time from first contact with advice to completion of the accommodation is on average more than two years.

It is feared that Covid-19 has probably affected the length of the adaptation process as well as increased the cost of building materials/contractors to carry out the construction work.

Before someone can request a GFR, an occupational therapist (OT) must first assess their needs.

In Wales, disabled residents needing home adaptations could wait less than a week or up to a year to be assessed by an occupational therapist in 2021/22, depending on where they live, with Newport having the longer wait of 12 months.

In contrast, the wait for an OT with Conwy Council has been less than a week since 2018/19.

The longest average wait in England, of the 89 councils who responded to this question, was eight months in Salford, followed by Manchester City Council at seven months and Solihull Council at six and a half months.

Councils have discretionary powers to top up the mandatory amount of GFR per applicant. In England the maximum DFG amount is £30,000 and in Wales it is £36,000.

The Westminster Social Care White Paper proposed raising the upper limit of GFRs, which has not changed in England since 2008.

195, or 79% of councils in England, said they use their discretionary powers to top up the grant amount, while 53 (21%) of councils have no such system in place.

In Wales, 13 of 22 local authorities have a discretionary scheme in place and four councils do not.

A quarter (26%) of households in Wales dropped out of the Home Adaptation Grant application process after a means test, over a three-and-a-half-year period from April 2018 to September 2021.

In 2020/21, around a third (35%) fewer household resource tests were carried out compared to 2019/20.

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A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Although the distribution and spending of Disability Facilities Grants is the responsibility of local authorities, we have provided an additional £1million in the last financial year (2021-2022 ) and we are fixed
increase it again for adaptations that help people with disabilities live comfortably in their homes.

“To further reduce inequality, we have also given Regional Partnership Councils the discretion to support local authorities with additional funding for large adaptations that exceed the £36,000 cap.

“Last year, 85% of fittings in Wales were completed within three months, and almost all within a year.

“We continue to work with local authorities, health boards, housing
care and repair associations and agencies to improve the quality of adaptation data and improve access to services.

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