Disabled facilities grant policy

Policy Introduction

This Policy document sets out the overarching framework by which Braintree District Council will administer and deliver mandatory and discretionary Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs). DFGs are available to help meet the costs of adapting a privately owned or privately rented dwelling to enable a disabled person to live as independently as possible within their home.

This Disabled Facilities Grants policy document contains information on;

  • Applicant eligibility for grant assistance,
  • Eligible works
  • Stakeholder obligations
  • The grant approval process

Part 1 mandatory disabled facilities grants

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Braintree District Council, in its role as a local housing authority, is under a statutory duty by virtue of the provisions of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 (the Act) to provide Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) for residential adaptations where the appropriate legislative conditions are met.

1.2 The purposes for which a DFG may be given are set out in the Act and can be summarised as follows:

  • To remove or help overcome any obstacles which prevent a disabled occupant moving freely into and around a dwelling and enjoying the use of the dwelling and the facilities and amenities (including facilitating such access as is required to allow for a disabled occupant to provide care for a person who is normally resident),
  • To make a dwelling safe for a disabled occupant and ,
  • To facilitate the use by a disabled occupant of a source of power and light or heat.
  • Where a Housing Association is the landlord the tenant should refer to their landlord for information relating to disabled adaptations with these dwellings in the first instance as consent would be required for any adaptation to be carried out.
  • Common parts:- grant may be given for works to facilitate access to a dwelling through common parts of a building. This could only apply where landlords consent is given for such works. The landlord would be required to accept responsibility for the repair and maintenance of any fixtures and fittings provided by the grant.

Eligibility for Grant Funding

1.3 In order to approve DFGs, officers of Braintree District Council will work primarily with the Occupational Therapy Service at Essex County Council. Any submissions from an independent Occupational Therapist will in all cases be forwarded to the Essex County Council Occupational Therapy service and no decision on grant eligibility will be made until their assessment and recommendations have been made.

1.4 The Occupational Therapy Service at Essex County Council will make referrals to Braintree District Council recommending work to be carried out which it considers is necessary and appropriate to meet the needs of their client.

1.5 The Council will also consider whether the proposed work is reasonable and practical to carry out having regard to the age and condition of the property. If proposed works are considered not to be reasonable and practical the Occupational Therapist and the applicant will be notified that Braintree District Council will be unable to provide grant funding.

1.6 The Council will in all instances have regard to the provisions of the Act and comply with its requirements. In addition to its statutory obligations the Council will adhere to this policy in the provision of DFGs where it sets out conditions and procedures not covered by the legislation.

2.0 Amount of Mandatory DFG Funding and Limitations.

2.1 The maximum amount of mandatory grant that the Council can pay for any single grant application is set by The Disabled Facilities Grants (Maximum Amounts and Additional Purposes)(England) Order 2008 and is currently £30,000. This amount is reduced by any contribution assessed as payable by the grant applicant (see section 8.0 on the Test of Resources).

2.2 The grant is repayable as described in the terms set out in section 12.1

2.3 Where two disabled applicants are resident at one property the maximum grant allowable will remain at £30,000 unless the works required for each applicant are distinctly separate to reflect the separate needs of the two applicants.

2.4 Grant works will only be undertaken where there is a clinical need as identified by the Occupational Therapy Service

2.5 The list below provides examples (although not exhaustive) of the types of works that can and works that cannot be funded by a disabled Facilities Grant.

i). Grant works can include;-

  • Works specified as necessary and appropriate by Occupational Therapy  Service at Essex County Council

Any work completed under an eligible grant will be finished to the following standard;-

  • All new plasterwork will be sealed.
  • New timberwork will be primed, undercoated and gloss coated.
  • Tiling of bathrooms as referred to in the specification by Occupational Therapy Service at Essex County Council.

ii) Grant works would not normally include;-

  • Works not specified in the referral by Occupational Therapy Service at Essex County Council.
  • Gloss coating of existing timber.
  • Tiling of walls not specified in the referral.
  • Other decoration within rooms affected by works. Eg. Wall papering
  • Final decorative works, except the gloss coating of new timber as outlined above.
  • Extended warranties to electrical apparatus beyond the manufacturer’s warranty period, (usually one year).
  • Provision for storage and charging of mobility scooters
  • Provision of accommodation whilst grant funded works are undertaken
  • Re-instatement of a property when the use of the adaptation is no longer required.
  • Crossing of a greensward
  • The fencing of rear gardens. It is expected that adequate fencing in such properties would be provided as part of their routine maintenance programme. Fencing to front gardens may be permitted where the recommendation from the OT requires security of a child between transfers from vehicle to the house.

Part 2 discretionary disabled facilities grants

3.0  Introduction

3.1 In addition to providing mandatory DFG’s, the Council has the power to offer discretionary financial assistance by virtue of the Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England & Wales) Order 2002. Using these powers, the Council has agreed to offer discretionary DFG’s for private sector residential adaptations in limited circumstances.  Discretionary funding would not normally be considered under the circumstances listed in section 4.6 below.

3.2 In owner occupier cases discretionary funding will be registered as a land charge against the property and is repayable upon sale or transfer of the property.

3.3 Within the scope of discretionary grant funding the Council may develop schemes in partnership with others, such as the Clinical Commissioning Group, Essex County Council or any other partners, which set out to achieve similar objectives to the DFG scheme. Such schemes will be developed independently with their own policies and are subject to change at short notice and/or as resource availability requires.

4.0 Top-Up to Mandatory Schemes

4.1 Where the cost of a scheme for mandatory works exceeds the maximum grant payable under current applicable legislation, the Council may provide assistance towards meeting all or part of the discretionary costs. 

4.2 Through adoption of this policy the Head of Service is delegated to authorise approval of discretionary grants up to a maximum of £10,000. Any discretionary grants above this amount will be at the discretion of the Cabinet Member for Environment and Place.

4.3 When determining any application for discretionary assistance the Council will consider any agreed Essex County Council funding plus the ability of the applicant to self-fund the identified additional costs. Subject to this assessment a discretionary award will potentially make up the difference between the maximum grant plus any additional partner funding, and the cost of eligible works.

4.4 If applicable any discretionary top-up will be repayable on the eventual sale or transfer of the subject property and will be recorded as a Land Registry charge. This will be in addition to any repayment liability under a mandatory DFG.

4.5 Any discretionary top-up will only be considered having regard to the amount of resources the Council has at the time the application is made.

4.6 Discretionary funding would not normally be considered under the following circumstances:

  • Where a means tested contribution is required.
  • Where the works are wholly discretionary.
  • For housing association (HA) properties (as there is an expectation that the HA will contribute towards the adaptation or make arrangements to relocate their tenant to a more suitable property) unless match funding is provided by the HA.
  • Where it is reasonable to expect the applicant to release equity to support the additional costs.
  • Where there are insufficient funds to support the application for discretionary funding having regards to the commitment for mandatory grant funding.
  • For works which would not qualify for mandatory funding.
  • Where there is no demonstrable clinical need.
  • Where the works are for a second home where a child has dual residency, but see section 5 below.

There may be exceptions to the above criteria where justifiable circumstances permit.

5.0 Dual residency of a disabled child

5.1 Mandatory DFG can only be provided to the ‘sole or main residence’ of the disabled applicant and in circumstances covered by this section it would be assumed that one party would apply for mandatory grant on the basis that the child occupies the subject property as their sole or main residence. The main residence will be determined by which party receives child benefit. This property may or may not be within the Braintree District Council area and may be eligible for mandatory funding from the authority in which the property is located.

5.2 In cases where families separate and a court order provides that residency of the subject disabled child is split between the mother and father (or other designated guardian) the Authority may consider the award of discretionary DFG to one property. The proposed adaptations will only be considered for discretionary assistance if they fall within those headings normally applied to mandatory schemes (see section 1.2).

5.3 The Authority will consider the details of any court order and specifically the allocation of time spent with each parent in determining eligibility for assistance. No specific percentage split is proposed by this policy as each case will be reviewed on its own merits. Factors to be considered include the specific details of any order, likely time to be spent at each property, whether the child will stay overnight at the subject property and for what period etc.

5.4 In determining the works that might be considered as eligible for assistance the Authority will consider the suitability of the subject property for adaptation, the complexity and scope of the adaptations required and any observations or referral made by the Occupational Therapy service. The scope of any works will not necessarily mirror that to be undertaken at the sole or main residence.

5.5 Any assistance provided under this heading will be up to a maximum award of £10,000, but will not be subject to any form of means testing. Any award will be repayable to the Authority if and when the subject property is sold. The award amount will be recorded as a Land Registry charge.

5.6 Potential awards will only be considered having regards to the amount of discretionary funding the Authority has available at the time of application. Applications will be considered on an individual basis and having regards for priority need. Should the Authority not have sufficient discretionary funding available to meet its statutory obligations for mandatory funding and/or discretionary funding at a higher priority, the Council reserves the right not to approve any discretionary assistance to the applicant.

6.0 Relocation Grant

6.1 A relocation grant may be available to provide an alternative option where it is not possible to adapt an existing property, where the applicant would otherwise qualify under the DFG scheme and the following criteria exist:-

  • adaptations to their current home through DFG are determined not to be reasonable and practical,
  • the adaptations involve major work and it would be beneficial to the disabled person and more cost effective if they moved to a home more suitable to their needs,
  • a landlord has reasonably refused to give consent to the adaptation work to a rented property.

6.2 Applicants must be 18 or over on the date the application is made and, in the case of a disabled child, the parent(s) would make the application. Any application must be supported by a recommendation from the Essex County Council’s Occupational Therapy Service.

6.3 The Council and the Occupational Therapist must be satisfied that the proposed property already meets the needs of the disabled person without further adaptation or are satisfied that it can be adapted at a reasonable cost (see section 6.6). The cost of the relocation grant together with the cost of any adaptations required to the new property must demonstrate value for money.

6.4 Applicants must be relocating within the Braintree district.

6.5 A grant of up to £8000 may be made available towards specific relocation expenses, which includes estate agent fees, legal costs, and removal costs.

6.6 Where a relocation grant is offered and further adaptation of the new property is required the combined cost of relocation and adaptation must not exceed the statutory maximum DFG, currently £30,000.

6.7 The Council will normally require two quotations from independent contractors that realistically reflect the cost of the works/service provided. In some circumstances, one estimate may be accepted if the Council is satisfied that the cost is reasonable.

6.8 All applicants will be required to complete the move within 12 months from the date of approval of their application. Valid invoices or receipts must be provided prior to payment.

6.9 If on sale of the applicant’s existing property, a net equity of more than £10,000 is released, the Relocation Grant will only fund the physical removal costs. (Net equity refers to any funds released when the purchase price of the new property is less than the existing property’s selling price). No grant will be offered if the net equity released is in excess of £50,000.

6.10 If the move is aborted through the fault of the applicant (to be determined by the grants officer) then costs will not be paid and any costs already paid may be reclaimed from the applicant. If the reason for the move failing through is no fault of the applicant then the costs will not be recovered.

6.11 The new property must be the disabled person’s main residence and no applicant will be awarded a Relocation Grant on more than one occasion.

6.12 The Relocation Grant scheme will be subject to the same Test of Resources as the mandatory Disabled Facilities Grant scheme unless the relocation is for a disabled child in which case no test will be applied.

6.13 If the disabled occupant moves from the new property within 5 years then the relocation grant must be paid back in full, except in exceptional circumstances.

6.14 Any Relocation Grant will be recorded as a land registry charge and will mirror those repayment conditions attached to mandatory DFG’s that breach a £5000 threshold (see section 12.1).

6.15 Applications must be submitted prior to the relocation; grants cannot be paid retrospectively. Assistance will not be given towards the purchase price of the new property.

Part 3 general requirements & grant conditions

7.0  The following general requirements and conditions will apply to both mandatory DFGs and discretionary DFGs.

7.1 Applications for Grant

An application for a disabled facility grant will only be accepted from an applicant, or on behalf of an applicant who is registerable as disabled and with referral from the Occupational Therapy Service at Essex County Council.

7.2 Braintree District Council will offer to undertake the preparatory work to enable the client to make an application with all the relevant documentation and builders quotes etc. The Council will charge an administration fee for this service which will be added to the grant. The applicant will be advised of the fee in advance and will be given the opportunity to decline this service and instead make their own application. In such instances the applicant would subsequently liaise with contractors and the Council throughout the construction process.

7.3 Where an applicant is required to make a contribution which is equal to or in excess of the cost of the works the applicant must confirm in writing their willingness to pay their contribution to the contractor on completion of the works or as the first interim payment if this is appropriate.

8.0 Cost of work

8.1 The Council uses public money to fund the provision of both mandatory and discretionary DFGs and as such it must take into account value for money and best practice.

8.2 When officers schedule the work to be carried out they will ensure it meets the needs of the applicant but at the same time they will only prepare a basic specification. If grant applicants wish to have a higher or more complex specification that incurs higher costs then they shall assume full responsibility for the additional costs.

8.3 The application requires at least two quotes for the cost of work. The grant will usually be approved on the basis of the cheapest quote unless there are extenuating circumstances. Where the applicant wants to use a contractor that will cost more than the quote that is deemed acceptable by the Council, the applicant will have to pay the difference direct to the contractor.

8.4 If a grant applicant has a preferred scheme of works that meets their assessed need to the same degree as the scheme proposed by the Occupational Therapy Service at Essex County Council. E.g. the provision of a ground floor extension in lieu of a vertical through floor lift installation, the Council will part fund the preferred scheme to the same value of the grant eligible works. Any extra costs associated with the clients preferred scheme, including unforeseen works, architects fees etc., must be met by the grant applicant. Evidence that sufficient funds are in place must be made available to the Council prior to works starting. The Occupational Therapy Service at Essex County Council will be consulted to ensure that the applicants preferred scheme meets their assessed need in full.

9.0 Means tested contributions

9.1 Applicants for DFG’s will be required to complete a test of resources (means test) to determine whether any contribution is to be paid towards the cost of works by the applicant. The Council will undertake such means tests in line with the prevailing statutory provisions in force at the point of application. Where it is apparent that the applicant may not automatically qualify for a grant a Preliminary Test of Resources may be undertaken to provide the prospective applicant with an early indication of their likely contribution. Such preliminary tests will not be applied in urgent cases or where the client is in receipt of a passporting benefit.  A passporting benefit is deemed as a confirmed qualifying entitlement to;

  • Income support
  • Universal Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income based job seekers allowance
  • Working tax credit where the assessed income in below a nationally set amount
  • Child tax credit where the assessed income is below a nationally set amount

9.2 An applicant in receipt of one of these benefits is 'passported' to a full grant and will not be required to make a contribution towards the cost of work providing that the cost of works do not exceed the maximum amount. At present parents of disabled children and young persons are not subject to a test of resources.

9.3 Where the Council identifies that an applicant has not fully declared their income and savings it will consider prosecution and will withhold the grant or may demand repayment of any grant funds already paid.

10.0 Grant approval

10.1 The Council is required to consult with and obtain confirmation from the Occupational Therapy Service at Essex County Council. that the works which are the subject of the application are necessary and appropriate to meet the needs of the disabled occupant.

10.2 The Council is required to approve or refuse a grant within 6 months of a valid grant application being made. A valid application is deemed to be made when the following documentation is submitted:

  • A completed application form
  • The appropriate certification together with proof of ownership or tenancy
  • The appropriate evidence of financial resources in order that the Council can undertake the Test of Resources
  • The appropriate number of quotes
  • Evidence that the property owner consents to the adaptations
  • Any other document deemed as necessary to enable a fair and consistent decision making process

10.3 Officers from the Council will assess the appropriate documentation submitted to ensure that it forms a valid application.

10.4 The Council will not usually approve an application for grant where the relevant work has already begun. It can approve however if it is satisfied that there were good reasons for beginning the works before the application was approved. Any grant offer may be reduced to reflect the works undertaken prior to approval.

10.5 The Council will not approve an application for a DFG if the relevant works have been fully completed.

11.0 Payment of grant

11.1 The legislation requires the Council to pay the grant on condition that the work has been carried out to its satisfaction. It also states that it is able to pay the contractor direct where it has advised the grant applicant prior to the grant being approved that this would be the method of payment.

11.2 The Council has resolved through this policy that it will pay the contractor direct and the grant applicant will be notified of this prior to the grant being approved.

11.3 The Council will inspect the works once completed and, if in their professional opinion the work has been done satisfactorily, will pay the contractor direct to the value of the grant. Any other payments for which the grant applicant is responsible must be made by the applicant.

11.4 If the Council is not satisfied with the standard of work it will retain the grant money until such time as any works issues have been resolved at which point it will pay the contractor.

11.5 If the applicant is not satisfied with the standard of work, the Council will withhold the payment for those works deemed unsatisfactory until the builder makes good. It is important to note that the Council will not withhold payment unreasonably.

11.6 If an agreement on satisfactory completion cannot be reached the Council retains the right to make the final decision and release or withhold payments at its own discretion.

12.0 Grant conditions following completion

There are certain grant conditions that run for a period of time following the completion of the grant (the grant condition period). These conditions will run from the certified date i.e. the date at which the Council has certified that the works have been carried out to its satisfaction.

12.1 Repayment in cases of disposal of the premises

12.1.1 The Council will demand repayment of mandatory DFG’s by the applicant of such part of the grant that exceeds £5,000 (but will not demand an amount in excess of £10,000) if

(i) the grant recipient disposes (whether by sale, assignment, transfer or otherwise) of the premises in respect of which the grant was given within 10 years of the certified date; and

(ii) the Council, having considered the exemptions specified by the relevant legislation, is satisfied that it is reasonable in all the circumstances to require the repayment.

12.1.2  If a grant recipient is of the opinion that any of the exemptions may be appropriate then they will be required to submit written representations to the Council setting out their case in full. The decision on whether to waive either all, or a proportion, of the grant recovery will be made by the Head of Service.

12.1.3 This repayment condition will be applied as a local land charge and is binding on any person who is the owner of the dwelling or building. It will only be lifted upon full settlement of the charge.

13.0 Installation of equipment and maintenance

13.1 Equipment which can be installed and removed without major disruption and does not require structural modification will not be funded by either a mandatory or discretionary DFG. The cost of supplying such equipment will fall to Essex County Council and can include outdoor grab rails and stand-alone shower chairs.

13.2 Typically the type of equipment that can be funded by a mandatory DFG includes:

  • Stair lifts
  • Through floor lifts
  • Rise and fall showering tables that are electrically powered,
  • Rise and fall baths that are electrically powered
  • Wash and dry toilets

this is not an exhaustive list.

13.3 Where the provision of equipment is funded by a mandatory DFG it is the responsibility of the applicant to take out the necessary insurances and maintenance agreements to ensure the equipment is properly maintained. The Council will not normally include the cost of a supplier’s maintenance/service agreement beyond the manufacturers/installers own guarantee.

13.4 If a grant application is made for replacement of defective/obsolete equipment it will not be approved if it can be shown that the equipment can be repaired at a reasonable cost in comparison to renewal. In such cases the costs of the repairs will fall to the householder.

13.5 A grant may not usually be made for the replacement of equipment which has become defective through misuse by the applicant or in cases where the applicant has failed to ensure appropriate maintenance.

14.0 Contractual relationships

14.1 Following the referral from the Occupational Therapy Service at Essex County Council, officers from Braintree District Council will draft the required schedule of works. The scheduled works will form the basis upon which the contractors will quote. As referred to above at paragraph 8.3 the grant applicant will need to obtain at least two quotes, however officers will source such quotes on behalf of the applicant where the applicant has requested that the Council acts as their agent. The Council reserves the right to charge a fee for this and associated services i.e. scheme design, producing plans and specification, release of interim payments, assistance with the completion of application forms, inspection of works, etc.

14.2 The agreement for works to be carried out at a property is a contractual agreement between the applicant and the building contractor.

14.3 Whilst work is being undertaken officers will wherever possible visit the property to ensure that the work is being undertaken as per specification and when the work is completed, the officer will carry out a final inspection to ensure it has been completed satisfactorily.

14.4 Grant applicants must be aware however that the Council is in no way responsible for the work of the contractor and that there are no contractual obligations between the building contractor and Braintree District Council.

14.5 The purpose of the final inspection is simply to protect the public purse. All contractual relationships with respect to the carrying out of the work are between the grant applicant and the building contractor.

14.6 If there is a dispute between the grant applicant and the building contractor, the Council will endeavour to resolve the situation amicably but cannot be held responsible unless by act or default the Council has caused the issue which led to the dispute.

15.0 Complaints

15.1 Where Applicants are dissatisfied with the service they have received (including where a grant has been refused), they should contact the Environmental Health Manager (Housing & Pollution) at the main Council address. If the matter is not resolved to the Applicants’ satisfaction they can make a formal complaint via the Council’s adopted Customer Complaints procedure.

16.0 Policy amendments

16.1 The Cabinet Member for Environment and Place has delegated authority to make minor policy amendments which do not affect the broad thrust of policy direction.