Disability United blog post, 4 August 2016: Petition Alert! Underfunding the Disabled Facilities Grant must end
The Disability United team have launched a petition following calculations by our Editor Fleur Perry indicate that underfunding Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) could have resulted in savings of more than £47 billion being missed in the past 5 years.
View and sign the petition.
Why are DFGs important?
Disabled Facilities Grants were introduced in 1996 to allow people with disabilities to adapt their homes to meet their needs. Thousands of people who would otherwise been unable to afford to adapt their homes have benefitted from the scheme, however long waiting lists and a £30,000 grant limit mean that some do not receive the adaptations they need when they need them. There is also a lack of awareness of the Disabled Facilities Grant amongst young disabled people.
This means that thousands of people are living in unsafe and unsuitable homes, despite a legal obligation on councils to prevent this.
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The mathematical rationale
A 2011 report by the BRE, “Disabled Facilities Grant allocation methodology and means test”, estimated the overall need for DFG funding at that time:
“Analysis using English house condition survey data has indicated that the total amount required to cover grants for all of those who are theoretically eligible under the current rules is £1.9bn at 2005 prices.”
Looking back at the past 5 years, Fleur found that only just over £1 billion had been invested in DFGs by central government since the BRE report was published.
There has long been a dearth of evidence for the cost-effectiveness of DFGs, however new evidence has been produced by Isle of Wight Council. It concludes that even if only 20% of the estimated potential savings in care costs are realised, every £1 invested in DFGs returns £1.46 with 1 year, and £7.30 within 5 years.
If all of the potential savings in care costs were realised, every £1 invested in DFGs returns £7.30 in 1 year, and £36.50 in 5 years.
This does not include savings to health services through reduced preventable injuries. Other services may also indirectly feel the benefit of savings due to an overall improvement in or slowed decline in wellbeing.
A short overview of the Isle of Wight data can be found here, on pages 16 to 18.
Using this savings data, Fleur attempted to estimate the impact of the DFG shortfall. Using the 20% realisable savings model, the calculations stated that more than £9.5 billion of savings may have been missed. Using the full potential savings model, the calculations stated that more than £47 billion of savings may have been missed.
This data doesn’t take into account that councils sometimes top up DFG funding from their own budgets, though Freedom of Information requests by Leonard Cheshire Disability show that 25% of councils don’t do this at all. It also does not take into account that prices have risen since the 2005 estimates used by the BRE, that we have an increasingly ageing population that need their homes adapting to meet their changing need, and that people with complex and progressive conditions are living longer, fuller lives due to advances in medical care and social theory.
This estimate of missed savings does not include costs to the NHS from preventable falls or other incidents, nor the less immediate knock on effects on the health and wellbeing of disabled people and informal carers.
What it does show is that the underfunding of the Disabled Facilities Grant is completely illogical, and needs to change. That’s why Disability United have started a petition, asking the government to estimate what funding is needed every year, and to make sure that every disabled person eligible for a Disabled Facilities Grant will get the support they need to make their home safe and suitable.
Making sure that people with disabilities have access to safe and suitable housing needs to be high on the agenda for Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Disabled People; Gavin Barwell, Minister of State for Housing and Planning; and David Mowat, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Community Health and Care. If the government are serious about “living within our means” as an economic principle, then investment which benefits disabled people and may generate savings of this scale cannot be ignored.
The BRE report was funded by DCLG to estimate overall need for DFG funding at that time. We’d like to request that need is estimated on an annual basis at a local authority level. This would allow local authorities to make informed choices about how to use their resources and would allow central government to invest a needs led amount, ensuring tens of billions of potential savings are not missed in the next 5 years.
Don’t forget to view and sign the petition.