New evidence that home adaptations can alleviate pressures on council budgets

Elderly people who have had adaptations made to their home via the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) move into residential care around four years later than those who have not, an investigation has found.

The study, by the national body for home improvement agencies Foundations, also showed that people who access the grant – managed jointly by social services and the NHS within the Better Care Fund – can benefit from substantial financial savings.

And councils are now recognising the impact of the grant on their wider care costs, particularly at a time when the sector faces immense cost-saving pressures.

Older people or those with disabilities can apply for a grant to make changes to their homes, such as widen doors, install ramps, improve access to rooms and facilities, enhance the heating system and adapt lighting controls.

To investigate the benefits of the grant, Foundations sent Freedom of Information requests to all councils in England with social care duties, asking them to analyse the care needs of people depending on whether they had previously applied for a DFG to pay for adaptations.

Within residential care, those who had previously received a DFG move into care around their 80th birthday, staying there for two years. Those who had not applied for the grant moved when they were 76 and stayed for around six years.

Council figures also indicated that those who need care at home require less hours of home help after adaptations, trimming around £1,300 every year.

And with government guidance recommending that adaptations be considered in future spending plans, DFG could be used to mitigate growing pressures on local authority social care budgets.

449 Paul Smith resize 635816433924099615Foundations director Paul Smith, whom PSE has previously interviewed about the DFG, said: “It makes sense that adapting your home means that you can live there independently for longer, but this research indicates that modifications such as stairlifts, level access showers and ramps really do help to delay people moving into care homes – by four years.

“We have an ageing population and this brings growing financial pressure on both the public purse and the finances of individuals. That’s why enabling people to live in their own homes has never been more important – home adaptations via DFG offer a cost-effective and empowering solution.”

Councils are also now able to link adaptations to social care spend, even though most local authorities use different recording systems that could not be readily linked in the past.

The new ability to link up data could allow commissioners to look for evidence of impact in order to back up increasingly difficult spending decisions.

Smith said: “It’s a requirement of the Better Care Fund for the NHS and social care to link their information system using the NHS number. I would like to see this extended to the IT systems used to manage DFG applications and other housing interventions so that all local authorities can track the benefits and also start to target people who may be at premature risk of moving into residential care.”


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