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Budget increase for disabled facilities grants

View profile for Mike Pemberton
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This week, Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb announced an extra £40m will be added to the budget to provide Disabled Facilities Grants to help people remain independent in their own homes for longer.

The Minister said: “For people with disabilities and older people, even the simplest things such as walking, getting up the stairs and climbing in and out of the bathtub can become difficult.

“We know that most people want to remain independent and be supported in their own home as far as possible. This funding will help people make the necessary practical changes to help them remain in their own home and prevent or even postpone the development of health and care needs.

“An adaptation can make a huge difference to the life of an older person by helping them access all facilities and all parts of their home safely and independently. Research shows that for every £1,000 spent through the Disabled Facilities Grant, the quality of life gains are estimated at £1,723 per year.”

This extra funding should certainly enable older people and adults and children with disabilities to have a better quality of life and also help them remain independent and in their own home for longer.

However, while this extra money is welcomed, when account is taken of the amounts which individuals may require in such grants (of up to £30,000 in each case), then the £40m nationally may only in fact help about 1000 to 2000 people in itself across the whole country.

There are some 193 Local Authorities in England alone, with many of those sub-divided into parishes and towns. The extra money may work out to allow perhaps one or two more disabled person to be helped in each town or local area.

The costs of providing adaptations is of course huge and £40m is a lot of money when we live in austere times …but the benefits to a person in need can be truly life changing and – as is reported can have a net gain in terms of having to deliver less face-to-face care in the community (at an even higher cost).

The problems faced by elderly and disabled adults and children who need adaptations are not always about the cost alone though.

The way budgets are handled locally and the way in which an assessment of needs has to be undertaken by a specialist (usually through an Occupational Therapist), a recommendation for adaptations made and then a grant applied for and decided before work can then be cost-estimated, passed in planning and finally be put out to tender means that many people in immediate need can wait several months or years before their need is actually met.

This creates a legal and practical “grey area” where the duty of the Local Authority to assess and identify community care need is met, where the associated duty to decide to intervene is also met, but where the practicalities mean that the duty to arrange services suitably, reasonably and meaningfully is lost whilst the bureaucracy takes over.

People are unaware that the duty to meet need cannot be “put on hold” awaiting such bureaucracy, and that an interim duty is owed to anyone who has substantial need and who awaits adaptations.

In practical terms this can include the provision of extra support and care until the work is completed, or – in some cases – moving the person to another place altogether which has adaptations or is already suitable.

At the very least the Public Authority must show it has considered interim care and offered it where appropriate. As the cost of care of this nature is often much more expensive than (and in addition to) the already-agreed (but not yet processed) adaptation itself, this can be a way of making the Authority speed up the process of providing the adaptation.

If you simply leave them to do everything in their own time frame, then the likelihood is you will wait the maximum time. 

By Pete Donohue
  

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