DISABLED people in Wales face a 'postcode lottery' when waiting for vital home improvements.

Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found thousands of disabled people across the UK are waiting months just to be assessed for an adaptation to their home, and years to get the work done.

The delays can result in terrible hardship — such as a lack of cooking or shower facilities — or even people being unable to live in their own home until it can be made accessible.

A means-tested Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) can fund the improvements but the Bureau of Investigative Journalism's research has found a postcode lottery in Wales as applicants wait on average between one month and a year from the first contact with a local authority for a home adaptation to their formal application being recorded as received by the council in 2021/22. 

The same data shows the process could take between three months and 17 months (under Pembrokeshire Council) before the work to adapt their homes is completed.

The Welsh Government has previously identified the grant as the main source of help for disabled people who are owner-occupiers or who live in private rented accommodation, but it is available to those in all types of housing.

Other council areas where the wait was at least one year or more are: Rhondda Cynon Taf, Ceredigion, Blaenau Gwent and Newport.

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In England those waiting longest for the whole process to be completed are in  Southend-on-Sea - where the time taken from first contact with the council to completion of the adaptation is an average of more than two years.

It is feared Covid-19 is likely to have adversely affected the length of the adaptation process as well as the increasing cost of building materials/ contractors to carry out construction work.

Before someone can apply for a DFG an occupational therapist (OT) must first assess their needs.

In Wales, disabled residents in need of home adaptations could wait less than a week or up to one year to be assessed by an OT in 2021/22, depending on where they live, with Newport having the longest wait of 12 months.

In contrast the wait for an OT with Conwy Council has been less than a week since 2018/19.

The longest average wait in England, out of the 89 councils which responded to this question, was eight months in Salford followed by Manchester City Council at seven months and Solihull Council at six and a half months.

Councils have discretionary powers to top-up the mandatory DFG amount per applicant. In England, the maximum DFG amount is £30,000 and in Wales it is £36,000.

Westminster's social care white paper has proposed raising the upper limit of DFGs which has not changed in England since 2008. 

195, or 79 per cent of councils in England, said they are utilising their discretionary powers to top-up the grant amount while 53 (21 per cent) of councils have no such scheme in place.

In Wales 13 of 22 local authorities have a discretionary scheme in place and four councils do not.

A quarter (26 per cent) of households in Wales dropped out of the grant application process for home adaptations after a means test, during a three-and-a-half year period, from April 2018 to September 2021. 

In 2020/21, about a third (35 per cent) fewer households’ means tests were completed compared to 2019/20. 

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A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “While distribution and spending of Disabled Facilities Grants are the responsibility of local authorities, we provided an extra £1m in last financial year (2021-2022) and are set
to increase that again for adaptations that help disabled people live comfortably in their homes.

“To further reduce inequalities, we’ve also given Regional Partnership Boards the discretion to support local authorities with additional funding for large adaptations which exceed the £36,000 cap.

“Last year, 85 per cent of adaptations in Wales were carried out in less than three months, and nearly all within a year.

"We continue to work with local authorities, health boards, housing
associations and care and repair agencies to improvethe quality of adaptations data and improve access to services.”

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