dfgA new report has outlined a raft of measures designed to improve the way support is delivered to enable people with disabilities to live independently.

Together they will ensure that the increased Government funding going into the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) over the next five years will have maximum effect. It comes as Better Care Fund allocations (of which DFG is now a part) are today announced by NHS England.

Produced jointly by Foundations – the national body for home improvement agencies (HIAs) – and the College of Occupational Therapists, the report calls for more integrated delivery and better reporting systems.

The means-tested grant, which is awarded by local authorities, is used to pay for adaptations such as stair lifts, ramps and level access showers and can have a major impact on supporting independent living while relieving pressure on acute services and reducing care needs.

The report calls for:

  • The creation of co-located teams of HIA staff and occupational therapists to ensure better communication and create a seamless service for clients around DFG work
  • Linking up IT systems within social care and housing so the impact of DFGs on a person’s care needs can be accurately measured
  • An increase in maximum grant to take account of inflation – the current limit of £30,000 hasn’t changed for five years. Eligibility criteria should be standardised by either including housing costs or adopting the social care means test
  • Using the NHS Number when recording information as recommended by the Better Care Fund. This will allow for a single reference for people at all stages of the process
  • Use of a Trusted Assessor approach for simple cases to allow occupational therapists to employ their skills with more complex cases. This will allow simple adaptations to be fast-tracked through the system.

The recommendations are based on discussions held at a DFG Summit staged by Foundations and the College of Occupational Therapists in December, which was attended by occupational therapists, HIA managers, grant officers and representatives from the Department of Health and Department for Communities and Local Government.

Paul Smith, director of Foundations, said:

“The Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) can often be characterised by the way it divides – opinions, delivery systems and eligibility for support. The DFG Summit was conceived to start bridging some of those divides and jointly hosting with the College of Occupational Therapists was hugely significant in signalling the need for a more collaborative approach.

“There are some great examples of joint working around the country that need to become the norm if we are to maximise the impact of DFGs on enabling independent living, alleviating pressure on acute services and reducing care and support needs.”

The report highlights a number of examples of best practice such as Cornwall Home Solutions, a county-wide service offering a range of home support to older people and those with disabilities. It has expanded to include occupational therapists and housing options services to enable the whole customer journey to be covered by a single organisation.

Julia Scott, chief executive of the College of Occupational Therapists, said:

“The College of Occupational Therapists is pleased to be part of this collaboration in order to ensure the best possible occupational therapy practice in relation to the provision of DFGs.

“Occupational therapists assess and make recommendations for 95% of DFGs, for disabled children and adults. The DFG can support a preventative approach by reducing risks within the home, and assisting individuals to live and manage independently in a safe and accessible home environment.

“We hope that many of the examples of improving delivery and reducing bureaucracy will be taken up by other services.”

Last year research by Foundations based on a Freedom of Information request found that older people who benefit from adaptations via a DFG delay their move into residential care by four years. It also showed people who need care at home require fewer hours of home help following adaptations – saving around £1,300 per year on average.

HIAs, often known as Care & Repair or Staying Put agencies, help people to carry out adaptations to their home, including applying for a DFG and arranging the works. DFGs will be among topics discussed at the HIA Annual Conference in Manchester on 19-20 April. For further details go to www.foundations.uk.com