The plan is a commendable step forward, but misses some of the most fundamental barriers to change
The Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) is a key preventative resource for local authorities. Foundations, the national body for home improvement agencies which oversees the use of the grant nationally, define the aim of the grant aim as being “to provide more joined up and customer focused services, to reduce hospital and care admissions and enable people to return from hospital more quickly.”
The grant has existed for over 25 years and is now part of the Better Care Fund. Central government has recently significantly increased its investment in the DFG, with a 79% increase in 2016/17 (from £220 to £394 million). Further increases are projected to take this to more than £500 million by 2019/20.
As the demands of an aging population and financial pressures challenge health and social care teams across the country, using the increasing DFG pot effectively to keep citizens safe and independent at home becomes ever more crucial.
There are three key steps for getting the most out of DFG:
- Set a shared ambition. DFG is often delivered by multiple professionals across social care and housing departments working to different policies and priorities. Having a clear strategic view about ambitions for the grant, and communicating it to the relevant professionals, will aid the work structure and direction.
- Be proactive. The majority of DFG work comes from referrals. Once a clear purpose has been set, there are opportunities for local authorities to proactively seek out citizens who would most benefit from adaptations, meaning those who (if provided with adaptations) might be able to live several more years independently at home.
- Measure impact. Finding ways of measuring impact (e.g. checking back with clients 6 and 12 months after an adaptation) has significant benefits including being able to demonstrate return on investment. A Foundations report published in 2015 asked 152 local authorities about the impact adaptations have on social care; more than two thirds (almost 70%) of local authorities were not able to provide this information. There are certainly challenges to measuring demand flow and impact for DFGs, including the use of multiple IT systems and a lack of strategic oversight. However, measuring impact allows authorities to set a baseline, which can then be used to hold up a mirror to existing practices, and to design interventions that maximise the impact of funding.
By setting clear ambitions, proactively seeking citizens who would most benefit, and measuring and acting upon impact, local authorities can start maximising the return on the investment from central government. Encouraging strategic oversite of DFG can also help promote collaboration and manage the interface between housing and social care teams, by setting joint goals and providing a forum for open discussions on challenges and priorities.
Please get in touch if you would like to discuss how to optimise DFG funding in more detail, or learn more about iMPOWER’s work in this area.