Government fail to meet targets to adapt homes for disabled people
The government has slyly gone back on a promise to increase the amount of cash disabled people are entitled to claim to make adaptations on their homes.
People with physical needs can use the Disabled Facilities Grant [DFG] if they have a valid reason to make their living environment more accessible up to the sum of £30,000, which was agreed in 2008.
But the cap was introduced eight years ago, meaning it is now worth around a third less.
The Local Government Association [LGA] argue the sum is out of date and was "now insufficient for most major building work costs".
The government said it had put an extra £100m towards the grant over the past two years, so that "more people can benefit".
Seventeen-year-old Finlay Woodcock-Daniels [pictured above] has cerebral palsy, he needs more space around hisle family’s Chester home so he can manoeuvre his wheelchair.
His mum, Alexa Woodcock, applied for the Disabled Facilities Grant so the downstairs area could be made more accessible.
She told BBC News: "Doors need widening, some doors need moving, purely to make Finlay's movement around the house easier because he's also visually impaired.”
Finlay also needs a wet room on the ground floor, a small extension for a family living space and easier access to the garden.
Alexa said: "His downstairs bathroom has been gifted to us by a local company. It's a prefab, like a posh festival toilet. It costs £20 a day to heat, which I can't afford to do. In the mornings in winter, he's going in there and it's cold.
"He can't access anything in the kitchen. He can't access our fridge because it's another area of the house that he can't get to so he, as a young man, can't develop any skills for independence at home, because our home is disabling to him.
"He's never had a fully accessible home and I find that heart-breaking."
The building work will set the family back £80,000 and an additional £14,000 for project management.
In November, the local council offered Alexa the maximum £30,000 grant with an extra £10,000 of discretionary funding, but she said she can’t afford the rest.
"I work full time, I'm a single mum, I've got three kids, I'm a teacher. I've raised enough money on our mortgage so we could move and I've maxed out. I can't afford to get a loan. There's no other money available,” Alexa explained.
She is not alone, according to disability charity Contact there are a number of families with disabled members who are struggling to afford to make their homes accessible.
The charity’s chief executive Anna Bird said unsuitable housing had "a huge detrimental impact on the physical and mental health of families with disabled children and this urgently needs to be addressed".
In 2021, the government released a policy paper which stated that they were “taking steps to ensure that the grant can reach more people who will benefit from it. We are increasing the amount that the grant can pay for an individual adaptation. This will mean that more people who need the grant across the country will be able to access it."
The government also promised to reform the means test disabled adults have to take in order to receive the grant because it was “complex” and “difficult to navigate”. [ Parents of disabled children are eligible to claim the maximum grant regardless of their income.]
Both points were pledged to be put into place in 2022, but so far, nothing has changed.
Amy Little, Head of Advocacy at Leonard Cheshire, said: "Yet as costs rise, the amount individuals can apply for has remained static since 2008.
"The upper limit must rise with inflation and the means test must be updated."
A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said: "Our programme of social care transformation is working to ensure that people can access the right care, in the right place, at the right time and we are focused on the priorities in our ambitious 10-year reform programme.
"The Disabled Facilities Grant helps around 50,000 people each year to adapt their homes to help them live more independently.
"Last March we announced an additional £100m over two years for the Disabled Facilities Grant, on top of the more than £500m already available annually for grants - so that more people can benefit."
[ Alexa Woodcock is now trying to raise money so she can make the family home accessible for her son. ]