Review highlights flaws with grant for major home adaptations

A woman using an aid to help her open a can with a ring pull

Home aids and adaptations can support people with arthritis to live independently. From lever taps and raised toilet seats, to grab rails and stair lifts, these items help people complete basic tasks that many take for granted. Last month, an independent review backed up our research into the experiences of people with arthritis who need this type of help.

When it comes to adaptations, these are split into minor (anything under £1,000) and major (over £1,000). If minor, they should be provided to a person free of charge by their local authority if they're found eligible after a needs assessment, regardless of how much money they have. However, to receive major adaptations, people with arthritis have to apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG).

DFGs are means-tested grants that can contribute towards the cost of making major adaptations to a home, such as installing a stairlift, building a walk-in shower room, widening doorways, providing ramps and hoists, or building a ground-floor extension.

Room to Manoeuvre

In July 2018, our Room to Manoeuvre report (PDF 812KB) was launched in Parliament and shed light on the problems that many people with arthritis face when trying to get help from the DFG. Some shared that they struggled to access funds in the first place, while those who were successful found managing the process stressful.

The process of obtaining the DFG was the most frustrating experience I’ve had in a long time. Information was very hard to come by...there was little support from my local authority.

Catherine, who has arthritis

Catherine shared her story in our campaign report. She told us: "I’m relieved the work is underway, but the process of obtaining the DFG was the most frustrating experience I’ve had in a long time. Information was very hard to come by, and even after the grant was approved there was little support from my local authority.

"The onus is on the individual throughout the process, including finding quotes from contractors. It took 16 months from getting an assessment by an occupational therapist to the work starting. Even now that the builders have arrived, I haven’t been told how long it will take to complete and I’ve been stuck inside while the work drags on."

We want to ensure that the process of securing funding for, and installing, major adaptations is improved for people like Catherine.

Independent report

We were pleased when the Government commissioned an independent review of the DFG process, the results of which were published on Monday 10 December 2018. Key findings include:

  • The means-test is outdated and inadequate.
  • The DFG application process is complex and waiting times are excessively long.
  • There's significant regional variation in the number of people who drop out of the process.
  • One third of people drop out part-way through the process. Often, this is because the means-tested grant doesn't cover the full cost of the adaptations, and people are unwilling or unable to make their own contribution. However, the drop-out rate varies massively across the country.

Many of the review’s findings echo our own research about the experiences people with arthritis have when accessing the grant. This independent report is a powerful piece of research that highlights a system in need of improvement.

Home aids and adaptations can be life-changing for people with arthritis, helping them to live independently and keeping people out of care homes and hospitals. But too often provision is poor, access is difficult, and what you get depends on where you live.

Next steps

We're calling on the Department of Health and Social Care to implement the recommendations from the independent review of the Disabled Facilities Grant, particularly those focused on:

  • future funding
  • information and advice for the general public
  • the means-test
  • better analysis of local need.

We'll continue to campaign for national and local government to improve the provision of home aids and adaptations. If you want to support our campaign, you can help us raise awareness of the problems people with arthritis face by sending our Room to Manoeuvre report to your MP.