What is a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG)?
A Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) is a means-tested grant for people with a permanent disability of any sort – including physical and learning disabilities, sensory impairments and mental illness. A DFG will enable you to make changes to your home that will help you to continue living there.
It could be used to fund work such as:
- installing a walk-in shower
- installing a stair lift
- converting a downstairs room to an accessible toilet or bathroom
- adding ceiling track hoists
- widening doorways
- fitting hand rails
- making outside steps easier to use or installing ramps
- improving central heating, or adapting heating or lighting controls to make them easier to use.
How much is available for a DFG?
In England, it’s possible to get up to £30,000 (2020-21).
In Northern Ireland, up to £25,000 is available (for more information, see below).
In Scotland, the sum is discretionary, depending on the local council (for more information, see below).
In Wales, up to £36,000 is available.
Who can get a DFG?
The DFG is means-tested for people aged 18 years or over, so the amount that you could get depends on your household income and savings. The means test looks at your income and savings together with that of your spouse or partner, if you have one. Other members of the household aren’t included. The first £6,000 of household savings are exempted from the means test.
Each local authority has its own policy for the means test, so we’re unable to provide precise information about the limits for income and savings. Contact your local authority to find out more about the means test for a DFG.
The amount you can get will depend on the cost of the work that needs doing. Some people might get the total cost of adaptations paid for; others might have to contribute towards the cost.
The council must have assessed that the work is:
- necessary and appropriate to meet your needs
- reasonable and can be done, depending on the age and condition of the property.
Other things to note are:
- if you’re a family member, landlord or Home Improvement Agency supporting a disabled person, you can apply for a DFG on their behalf
- the DFG is available whether you rent your property or own your home.
- if you’re a local authority or housing association tenant and you apply for help with adaptations, the local authority/housing association will decide whether to carry out the work itself, or refer you for a DFG.
How do I apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG)?
Get an assessment
Find out what changes are needed to your property and how much these will cost. If you’ve already had an assessment from the council (either an occupational therapy (OT) assessment or a full needs assessment) this will list recommendations.
If you need an assessment, your council will visit to assess if your home is suitable for adaptation and what is needed. There might be a long waiting list, in which case ask if you can use a private OT. You should be able to include the cost of this in your grant application, but check with your council first.
The council will normally need two written estimates for the cost of the work. They may be able to provide a list of builders or give advice about employing one.
Complete a DFG application form
This is available from your local authority or, in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE). This must include a description of your proposed adaptations and two estimates of the cost together with details of any other fees and charges.
You may be able to get help with the application process from a local Home Improvement Agency.
Each department has their own application forms, some of which are 45 pages long, most of which are means related. I hold all my data on a computer ready to be lifted from the last application and dropped into the new application, which is very valuable.
You must be the owner or tenant of the property or intend to become the owner or tenant and there must be a disabled person living in the property. You will need to provide documentation to prove either of these scenarios, which must be submitted with the DFG application.
Written consent: if you are renting a property, the owner must provide written agreement for the work to be carried out.
If the property is co-owned, then all parties must confirm their agreement in writing.
- If the property is owned by a Housing Association or the council, the manager of the scheme must agree to the work before it can start.
- If the property is privately rented, the property owner or managing agent must provide written consent.
Certificate: if you are the applicant, you must complete a certificate which states that you will be living in the property for at least five years after the work has been completed, unless you’re unable to due to health problems. This may be difficult if you are a private tenant and you have a short-term assured shorthold tenancy.
Apply for planning permission
You will need to apply separately for any necessary planning permission or building regulations approval (unless this is done by the Home Improvement Agency or other organisation).
Submit the application
You’ll need to return the completed application to the local council for approval before work starts on the property. Be warned that if you start work before getting council approval, your application could be turned down. The local authority should respond, in writing, within six months of the application date.
How is a DFG paid?
The DFG can be paid either:
- by instalments as the work progresses, or
- in full when the work is finished.
The council may pay the contractor directly or give you a cheque to pay the contractor themselves. The method of payment should be agreed when the council approves your application. If the work is carried out by a family member, the council will usually only pay for materials, not labour.
Are there any restrictions following the completion of work using a DFG?
When you sign a grant application, you will have to sign a certificate to say you intend to stay living there for at least five years once the work is complete. However, this only needs to be about an ‘intention’ to stay. If you subsequently wanted to downsize or move into a care home because your circumstances have changed, the grant shouldn’t be reclaimed.
If you receive a grant of more than £5,000 and own your home, some councils will place a local land charge on the property. This means that if you move within 10 years, you may need to repay some of the grant.
if your needs change following the completion of work using a DFG, you are entitled to apply for another grant as long as the combined total doesn’t exceed the statutory limit.
How to appeal against a DFG decision
If you think you have been unfairly refused a DFG, or you’re unhappy with how you’ve been treated by your council, read our article about challenging a local authority decision.
What are the alternatives if I’m not eligible for a grant?
If you aren’t eligible for a DFG but need to make some fundamental changes to the way you live, there are other options to consider, each of which we cover on Later Life Care.
- Self-funding home adaptations: you may need to use your income and savings or look into getting a personal loan or take out equity release. Read more about each of these options in this article.
- Downsizing: information about the pros and cons of downsizing, the options and considerations and how to set about organising your move.
- Sheltered housing: a practical guide explaining the different types of sheltered housing, how to buy or rent it together with cost and choosing details.
Grants in Scotland and Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) will assess how practical and reasonable it is to have proposed adaptations undertaken, taking into account the age and condition of the proposed dwelling.
The NIHE also carries out housing adaptations to meet the needs of its tenants as well as providing adaptations funding for Housing Association properties. Social housing providers can also provide an agreed range of minor housing adaptations without the need for a Health and Social Care assessment.
If you’re an NIHE tenant, you can contact your local office for further information. If you’re a Housing Association tenant, you should contact your landlord. Find out more about adaptations and agencies in Northern Ireland here.
The system for arranging adaptations on Scheme of Assistance is similar to the Disabled Facilities Grant. You should apply to your local council, and your needs will be assessed, usually by an occupational therapist.
The amount available depends on the local authority. Advice and information about adaptations for disabled people in Scotland is available from Care and Repair Scotland.
From grants to local authority funding, find out what help is available to help pay for home adaptations.
If you’re not eligible for council funding, you may need to use your income and savings, a loan or other options.
Home Improvement Agencies offer specialist support and advice for older and disabled people.