Disabled Facilities Grant hand rail

A study of 73 councils in England has revealed that contrary to the current trend of austerity in local government, council funding through Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) is at a 10-year high.

The data, gathered from Freedom of Information Requests submitted on behalf of A Wood Idea, highlight that the collective spend by councils on DFGs has risen 25 percent over the past 10 financial years, rising from £75million in 2009/10 to over £100million in 2018/19.

Highest and lowest spending councils

Overall, the research noted councils in the North West had the highest total spend over the 10 financial years at £21.4million, averaging at £1.6million per year, however, councils in Yorkshire & The Humber are spending the most on DFGs on average, at £2.4million per year.

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Of the councils who responded to the requests, Leeds City Council was found to spend the most on funding the grants, averaging £6.5million annually between 2009/10 and 2018/19. Manchester City Council followed in second place with an average spend of £4.7million.

Highest DFG Spend on Average
Council Average spend
Leeds
City Council
£6,508,716
Manchester
City Council
£4,654,900
Kirklees
Council
£2,547,621
Wiltshire
Council
£2,274,000
Sandwell
Metropolitan Borough Council Maidenhead
£2,153,352

Councils in the South East were shown to have the lowest average spend per year at £905,125, followed by Greater London with an average spend of £1million.

According to the data, Wokingham Council had the lowest DFG annual spend on average at £397,948, based on data supplied between 2014/15 and 2018/19. Second lowest was Slough Borough Council with an average spend of £489,476, followed by Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead’s £534,564.

Lowest DFG Spend on Average
Council Average spend
Wokingham
Council
£397,948***
Slough
Borough Council
£489,476
Royal
Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead
£534,564
Sutton
Council
£601,991
London
Borough of Lambeth
£609,355

***Based on the average spend for the data provided between 2014/15 and 2018/19.

Councils with the largest increases and reductions in DFG spending

Waltham Forest Council’s spend increased the most across the 10 financial years, jumping 109 percent from £978,113 in 2009/10 to £2million in 2018/19, rising in tandem with the growth in the number of DFG applications the council received — up from 78 in 2009/10 to 372 in 2018/19.

In contrast, Hull County Council’s DFG spend reduced dramatically by 42% between 2009/10 and 2018/19, dropping from £2.2million to £1.2million, with the number of grants approved had roughly halving.

Highest value DFGs approved

DFGs approved by Sutton Council had the highest value, averaging at £13,751. At the other end of the scale, Milton Keynes Council spends the lowest amount on average, equalling £3,766 per grant.

Most and fewest DFGs issued

Most DFGs issued
Council DFGs issued
East
Riding of Yorkshire Council
1,587*
Leeds
City Council
917
Manchester
City Council
815
Wirral
Council
390**
(2018/19 data not supplied)
Sheffield
City Council
368

*based on 6 years of data only, from 2013/14
** 2018/19 data not supplied

Fewest DFGs Issued
Council DFGs issued
Sutton
Council
44
Merton
Council
61
Slough
Borough Council
62
London
Borough of Redbridge
74
Royal
Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead
75

A lack of awareness

Whilst the overall spend of councils demonstrates an increasing number of people are using DFGs to fund essential accessibility adaptations to their homes, researchers emphasised that an overriding theme when speaking to people was that a severe lack of awareness around DFGs, which could be helping a lot more people.

Hollie-Anne Brooks, a respected journalist and a passionate campaigner for disability rights, became disabled a little over 12 months ago, and despite not having the first-hand experience of DFGs, she has spoken with countless people who have had their lives changed for the better by the grants.

“Although I haven’t personally applied for a DFG, I know full well the positive impact they can have on a person’s life. Small changes matter a great deal and something that may seem minor can have such an enriching impact on the life of a disabled person – both from an accessibility point of view but also in terms of their mental health.

“Though it’s great that the money is available when people need to access it, one of the major problems we currently have with the grant is awareness. Although it’s positive to see that spending across councils on DFG’s generally seems to be increasing, it’s critical that the people who need it most are aware that these life-changing grants are available to them.”

Hollie-Anne’s comments mirror the findings of reports by Versus Arthritis and Department of Health and Social Care’s review of Disabled Facilities Grants, with both underlining that lack of awareness surrounding DFG’s is preventing many from applying for vital housing adaptations.

Recently, the Royal College of Occupational Therapists set out a new framework relating to the assessment for housing adaptations to help reduce delays, whilst a new partnership between the Centre for Ageing Better and Care & Repair England is set to improve the living conditions for England’s growing ageing population.

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