Are delays to DFG holding people back in hospital?
A study by the leading disability charity Leonard Cheshire has found that 67 percent of councils had disabled residents waiting longer than the 12-month statutory maximum deadline for completing essential home adaptation work. Furthermore, across 180 councils, an average of over 1,000 people per year waited longer than 12 months for completion of adaptations.
This is made even more shocking due to the fact that by law councils are required to approve or reject DFG applications within 6 months of application and then ensure that all works are completed within 12 months.
This gravity of the situation is further highlighted as on average in January 2020 5,182 people a day were unnecessarily stuck in hospital after they finished treatment and thus not only losing their mobility and independence but occupying a bed that could be used for other purposes.
There are many crucial works that can be done to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and the elderly including tasks like widening doors, putting in grab rails around high-risk areas such as entrances and bathrooms and generally making the house more accessible for people to live independently to reduce the risk of physical injury and consequent mental health problems.
Moreover, to reduce the load of the NHS there is equipment available which can enable many people to return home from hospital much more quickly as well as being reusable and thus more cost effective. Examples of these include the powered baths to help the mobility challenged user in and out of the water safely or vacuum positioning aids which can provide a specified support for eating and sleeping.
Disabled Facilities Grants or DFGs are an excellent mechanism for funding adaptations to people’s homes, to enable them to live there safely and independently. A straightforward replacement of a difficult to use bath with an adapted walk-in shower not only makes bathing easier but helps people to live longer in their own home. However, many have expressed their concerns with these grants with 20 out of 35 disabled people found filling in a DFG application ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ according to an online survey conducted by Leonard Cheshire and Disability Horizons.
DFGs also suffer from budget constraints that have meant that they do not want to trigger high demand and therefore less people have been granted them. In addition, these grants will take months to be allocated and so people in need of immediate adaptations to their homes either have to suffer at home or take up hospital beds unnecessarily.
One would argue that there is a need for innovation with this adversarial system that leads to councils and hospitals competing over budgets rather than pooling budgets and working collaboratively. In contrast, professionals are constrained to offer options that have been tested, instead of offering more efficient and cost-effective options that diverge from the traditional path, due to the need to conform and fear of the repercussions. For example a wet room is specified when an adapted bathroom with an ultra-low level shower may be just as practical.
In a time tainted by coronavirus there should be an imperative to provide home adaptions quickly so people can move out of hospitals and not only gain independence but also reduce the strain on hospitals already suffering from the influx of patients. We hope in the coming months there will be a focus on this from the government and local councils and that people can live with a better quality of life in their own home.