To consider the attached report of the Head of Regulatory Services.
The Private Sector Housing Manager presented the report on the Revised Housing Assistance Policy.
The intent of the revised Housing Assistance Policy was to simplify the process for applicants. The current policy, which dated from 2017, consisted of several different grants and it was not uncommon for applicants to have work funded from up to four different grants/loans each requiring a separate application. This also included the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) that all Councils were legally required to provide, and which was funded from the Better Care Fund.
The main focus of the Council’s discretionary Housing Assistance was in respect of:
· Schemes to improve the health and independence of persons with disabilities
· the elderly and those with long term health conditions
· To reduce the number of homes with serious hazards
· To enable more effective use of the Disabled Facilities Grant
· To encourage empty homes back into use
Members were advised that one of the key revisions to the policy was to replace the Disabled Adaptation Grant (DAG) with a Disabled Independence Grant (DIG). The new grant would deal with most situations so that in future an applicant would have either a DFG or a DIG.
The main features of the new DIG were:
· The grant would have a maximum limit of £38,000. The maximum limit on DFGs was £30,000 and for DAGs it was £20,000.
· It would include provision for repairs of up to £3,000. Repairs were not currently included in DFG or DAG grants.
· Grant conditions would only apply for grants that exceeded £15,000. In contrast, conditions for DFGs started at £5,000.
There were also a number of other grants available as followed:
· Disabled Home Assistance Grant which was only available to persons receiving a Disabled Facilities Grant or a Disabled Independence Grant. The application had to be made by the homeowners.
· Disabled Relocation Grants were available where a person was eligible for Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) assistance, but where the property was unsuitable for adaptation to their specific needs, or the Council believe it would be more reasonable or practical to move and adapt another property. The maximum assistance available was £20,000 comprising of a grant covering 70% of the eligible cost.
· Disabled Adaptation Loan was available where a person was in receipt of a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) or the Disabled Independence Grant (DIG) and where the Council, in consultation with Kent Social Services, was of the view that it is necessary, reasonable and practicable for the DFG adaptations works to exceed the maximum grant limit. In such circumstances a loan of up to £20,000 would be made available to fund the cost of eligible works that exceeded the DFG maximum.
The Council had also employed its own Occupational Therapist (on a part-time basis) to speed up the processing of grants.
Members were advised that the Council’s scheme was one of the most generous in Kent and that any unused funding each year would be carried over and be made available for the following year.
That it be recommended to Cabinet that decision CAB5 be endorsed as follows:
(a) That the existing Private Sector Housing Assistance Policy be amended in order to simplify and improve the assistance available to disabled residents.
(b) That the Head of Regulatory Services, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Housing and Health, be authorised to make further minor changes to the policy.