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Herefordshire Council (20 005 830)

Category : Adult care services > Disabled facilities grants

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 23 Jun 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr D complains the Council failed to advise him in 2015 and 2018 that he could apply for discretionary funding to adapt his home for his disabled wife. We have found no fault by the Council.

The complaint

  1. Mr D complains the Council failed to advise him in 2015 and 2018 that he could apply for discretionary funding to adapt his home for his disabled wife. As a result, he has unnecessarily spent £13,000.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  2. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
  3. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I spoke to Mr D about his complaint and considered the information he sent, the Council’s response to our enquiries and:
    • The Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) Act 2002
    • The Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance)(England and Wales) Order 2002
    • The Council’s Home Adaptations and Assistance Policy 2018
  2. Mr D and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.

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What I found

Disabled Facilities Grants

  1. Disabled facilities grants (DFGs) are provided under the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 to help towards the cost of adaptations to the home of a disabled person. They are mandatory and must be awarded if the applicant meets the qualifying conditions. These are that:
    • the applicant, or someone living in the property, is disabled and owns or rents the property and intends to live in it for five years; and
    • the council is satisfied that the works proposed are necessary and appropriate to meet the disabled person’s needs, and reasonable and practicable, depending on the age and condition of the property.
  2. If these criteria are met, means tested DFGs must be given for adaptations (up to £30,000) which give the person better freedom of movement in and around the home or to access essential facilities within it.
  3. A council should give the applicant a decision on a grant application as soon as reasonably practicable. This must be within 6 months of the grant application. The work must usually be completed within 12 months from the date the council approved the DFG.

Discretionary funding

  1. Councils may also provide discretionary home improvement grants where there are works required that cannot be considered for mandatory grants. Discretionary assistance may also be given in addition to a mandatory DFG.
  2. The Council's Home Adaptations and Assistance Policy 2018 lists eight sources of assistance:
        1. Mandatory DFG
        2. Professional and technical advice
        3. Emergency repayable grant - a discretionary grant for emergency repairs
        4. Discretionary DFG - if works cost more than £30k, or undue hardship would be caused by the DFG means test, or works are not mandatory
        5. Discretionary fast track adaptations scheme - for installing adaptations on a rental or re-use scheme (eg stair lift or hoist)
        6. Relocation grant - if moving is considered the most cost effective option
        7. Minor adaptations & handyperson scheme – for works costing less than £1,000 (eg hand rails)
        8. Technology enabled care services - telecare equipment
  3. The policy says the Council will not approve an application for assistance if any of the assisted works have been carried out before the application is approved.

What happened

  1. In 2015 Mr D’s wife, Mrs D, was living at home after discharge from hospital. She uses a wheelchair full-time. The Council's records show the Council's occupational therapist (OT) advised Mr D about a Disabled Facilities Grant for various adaptations to the property. However, Mr D decided to install a level access shower privately which cost almost £3,000.
  2. In 2018 Mr and Mrs D moved to a new house. The Council's records show that in July 2018 the OT discussed the possibility of a DFG for any adaptations needed.
  3. Mr and Mrs D decided not to apply for the DFG as they considered it would take too long and they needed the adaptations done quickly. They installed a wet room which cost almost £10,000.
  4. Mr D says in 2020 he became aware that there may have been other, discretionary, sources of funding which the Council had not told them about at the time. He complained to the Council in September 2020.
  5. The Council responded that DFGs could not be applied for retrospectively. Mr D complained to the Ombudsman.

My findings

  1. I have seen no evidence that the Council told Mr D about the discretionary DFG or other sources of funding for home improvements in 2018. However, I do not consider this was fault.
  2. The adaptations Mr D was seeking were to enable Mrs D to access an essential facility in her home, cost less than £30,000 and appear to have been reasonable and practicable. Mr and Mrs D owned their property and were intending to live in it for five years. As such Mr and Mrs D were eligible for the mandatory DFG.
  3. I have listed the other sources of assistance above. None of these would have applied to Mr D’s case. He would not have been eligible for the discretionary DFG because he was eligible for the mandatory DFG. The OT advised them of the mandatory DFG in July 2018 and I do not consider it was fault for her not to have explained the other options, which were not applicable to them.
  4. In any event, even if I found this was fault it caused Mr D no injustice. If he had approached the Council in 2018 about these other sources of funding, they would not have been awarded. He has therefore not lost out because he was not told about them.
  5. Mr D decided not to apply for the DFG and to carry on with the works as he needed the adaptations done more quickly than the 18 months it may have taken with a DFG. That was his right. But he has not been caused any injustice by fault by the Council.

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Final decision

  1. There was no fault by the Council. I have completed my investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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