HC Deb 19 April 2004 vol 420 cc345-7W
Mr. Laurence Robertson

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make changes to the eligibility for disability facilities grants, with particular reference to means-testing; and if he will make a statement. [165506]

Keith Hill

The Government has increased the funding for the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) from £57 million in 1997 to £101.5 million in 2004–05. In spite of this there is still a high demand for the grant and the means test is in place to ensure that resources go to those in greatest need. Any relaxation of it would have budgetary implications or would lead to longer waiting lists.

The Government has also announced a review of the DFG programme.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, jointly with the Department of Health, will be reviewing the disabled facilities grant programme, including the operation of the means test, in the context of the Spending Review 2004. We will announce our conclusions later this year. The position in Wales is, of course, a matter for the Welsh Assembly, but we are led to believe that it will also be undertaking a review of this important issue this year.

Mr. Swire

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what the total specified capital grant awarded in disabled facilities grants is for(a) 2003–04 and (b) 2004–05 in each region of England; [165011]

(2) what courses of action are available to local authorities to make up any differences between required expenditure and disabled facilities grants to comply with Government directives; [165012]

(3) what discussions his Department has had with local authorities to ascertain their expenditure plans to adapt people's homes before the awarding of disabled facilities grants; [165013]

(4) on what basis his Department calculated the disabled facilities grant in each region of England; [165014]

(5) what assessment his Department made of (a) local authorities' housing strategies and (b) house condition surveys prior to calculating disabled facilities grants. [165015]

Keith Hill

The allocation of specified capital grant (SCG) for disabled facilities grant (DFG) to each region of England for the years 2003–04 and 2004–05 are tabled as follows:

Region 2003–04 2004–05
London 15,399 15,282
East of England 10,182 9,978
North East 4,454 4,365
North West 15,738 17,360
West Midlands 11,778 11,542
South West 8,558 8,387
South East 15,690 17,211
Yorkshire/Humber 10,747 10,707
East Midlands 6,454 6,325

The SCO for DFGs is paid to local authorities to contribute towards 60 per cent. of local authority expenditure incurred on mandatory DFGs up to the limit of the allocation made to each local authority at the beginning of the financial year. Local authorities must find, from their own capital resources, funding for the remaining 40 per cent. of total DFG expenditure, 100 per cent. of any excess expenditure on mandatory DFGs above the allocation limit and any discretionary expenditure incurred by them in carrying out housing adaptations for disabled people. As DFG is a mandatory grant for eligible applicants, local authorities must make adequate financial provision within their budgets to meet these expenditure demands.

Local authorities are asked to submit to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister every year, in the Housing Strategy Statistical Appendix to their Housing Investment Programme, their planned expenditure on mandatory DFG.

The allocation of the national budget of SCG for DFGs to each region is made on the basis of a formula. This formula comprises indices constructed according to the number of people in each region in receipt of disability living allowance and attendance allowance and also an adjustment for the regional differences in building costs. These indices are updated annually. The allocation according to the formula is limited to the total amount that the authorities in each region have said they need to cover 60 per cent. of their planned expenditure on DFGs. If the formula allocates more than this amount the residual sum is reallocated to other regions in proportion to their need. For the 2004–05 allocations, a further damping mechanism was used to ensure that no region had a cut of more than 2 per cent. in its allocation compared with the previous year.

Once the regional allocation of SCG has been established the allocation to individual local authorities is made by the Government Offices in each Region. 80 per cent. of the regional total is allocated using the same indices of need as for the regional allocation. The remaining 20 per cent. is allocated entirely at the discretion of the Government Office who can take into account any relevant local evidence of need and policy performance including an assessment of an authority's housing strategy and the role played by housing adaptations.