Private Sector Housing Assistance Policy

Discretionary Assistance (D)

3.1 The Better Care Fund

In 2015 Government funding was pooled into a single budget for health and social care services to work more closely together – the Better Care Fund. The Fund provided an increase in funding for home adaptations and related opportunities to improve integration between Health, Social Care and Housing services, in particular the aim was to reduce hospital admissions and allow early hospital discharges.

The Better Care Fund is contributing to the additional allocation for DFGs provided to the councils in Hertfordshire under an annual determination from Central Government. The grant aims to improve health and wellbeing by encouraging more flexible use of DFG monies.

The Discretionary assistance offered by the Council is subject to funds being available and that the mandatory DFGs grants will be prioritised. It is important to note that discretionary funding will only be available for eligible works.

The budget available for discretionary provision will be reviewed annually or to fit with the cycle of funding allocations. Given the unpredictable nature of the demand, costs and funding of these types of assistance, it is important to note that any type of discretionary assistance may be withdrawn by the councils at any time.

To qualify for Discretionary Financial Assistance the applicant must:

  • be aged over 18 years, and
  • be a UK citizen or ordinary resident in the UK not subject to immigration control,
  • with a UK National Insurance Number
  • be an owner-occupier, or
  • be a tenant with repairing responsibility
  • have a right to exclusive occupation of a property for at least 10 years beyond completion of works.

The discretionary policy elements are:

3.1.1 Waiver of up to £5,000 contribution following the Means Test (D1)

The first £5,000 of an assessed contribution will be waived and the applicant will not be required to fund this portion of the contribution towards the works.

3.1.2 Help with assessed contribution exceeding £5000 following the means test (D2)

Generally the financial test of resources focuses on income and savings and provides a nominal figure for outgoings. However, the grant applicant may have significant expenditure in relation to their disability. This assistance is therefore specifically intended where there are particular difficulties or exceptional circumstances for the applicant and/or relevant person to pay the assessed contribution following a means test and genuine impact and hardship would be caused.

All applicants will be given the opportunity to complete a financial statement of their exceptional outgoings which must be directly linked to the applicant’s disability. Such expenditure may include for example care costs, the need to fund overnight accommodation to support a child in hospital, transport to treatment etc.

The council will consider the exceptional disability related expenses on a case by case basis. The assessment is about the impact and hardship created by the need to spend resources on these areas.

3.1.3 Funding in excess of the statutory maximum mandatory grant of £30,000 also known as ‘top up grant’ (D3)

This grant is intended to assist in cases where a major adaptation has been identified as essential to meet the needs of the disabled person and once all other options such as moving home and internal alterations have been considered.

For this discretionary element, the financial means test will be on the owner or tenant of the property irrespective of whether they are considered the relevant person for the purposes of the Mandatory Disabled Facility Grant application.

The assistance will normally be subject to a maximum limit of £15,000 within any 10 year period. Any expenditure over this amount would be considered on its merits and only reasonable costs would be considered. Any grant in excess of this will require authorisation by the Head of Service. The payment of a top up grant would also be dependent on available funds.

A local land charge for the full amount of top up will be placed on the owner occupied property for up to a ten year period in addition to any mandatory grant local land charge (see Appendix 2 – section G4) the maximum amount available per application will be limited to elements that are considered necessary and appropriate to meet the needs of the disabled occupant and reasonable and practicable taking into consideration the property.

3.1.4 Moving Home Grant (D4)

In some cases, moving home is more appropriate and cost effective to meet the needs of a disabled occupant, where it is not reasonable or practicable to adapt the existing home or where there is under or over occupation of the home.

A maximum of £10,000 will be considered at the council’s discretion for eligible applicants, following a referral and where a site visit indicates that it is not feasible or practicable to adapt the current property. The alternative property must either be already adapted or be adaptable at a reasonable cost. The grant can be used towards the expenses involved in moving home for example estate agent’s fees, solicitor’s fees, stamp duty, removal costs, disconnection and reconnection costs etc. Supporting quotes and/or invoices will be required and the grant can only be paid once the applicant has exchanged contracts with a legally binding completion date.

The grant is not subject to the means test (test of resources).

The proposed property must be confirmed as suitable by the relevant council’s private sector/housing standards team and be assessed to meet, or be easily adaptable, to meet the needs of the disabled person or child by an appropriately qualified professional e.g. a Hertfordshire County Council OT.

3.1.5 Hospital Discharge Grants (D5)

This grant of up to £5,000 is for disabled and vulnerable people being discharged home from hospital, rehab or step down beds and to prevent re-admission (or admission) to hospital. Eligibility applies for up to a month after discharge. The Hospital Discharge Grant is not means tested. The Hospital Discharge grant excludes people funded by NHS continuing healthcare. Works can include anything reasonable which would allow the person to return home or stay at home safely.

3.1.6 Abortive Fees Grant (D6)

A grant to cover reasonable professional fees and associated charges where engaged to advise on what works are required and necessary specialist technical services e.g. structural engineer, surveyor to determine whether a DFG project is feasible, planning and building control charges. Fees are paid as part of the DFG if the works go ahead or paid via this abortive fees grant if the work cannot proceed.

It should be noted that the Abortive Fees Grant may not be approved where the council determines that the applicant has engaged the professional specialist and then cancelled the works without justifiable cause.

Applicants cannot make more than one application for an Abortive Fees Grant in respect of the same grant eligible works.

3.1.7 Hoarding Grant (D7)

A non means tested grant to cover clearance and removal of items in a property where the degree of ‘hoarding’ is considered to be making a significant adverse impact on the mental or physical wellbeing of an occupier who is suffering from a physical and/or mental disability and/or their neighbours.

A hoarding grant is aimed to support vulnerable occupiers, including homeowners, housing association and private tenants, with significant hoarding that without assistance could lead to health issues, fire or serious injury and to hospital admissions, accidents and infections in their home. Such cases would be considered via the council’s Hoarding group, and the possible assistance will be reflected in the Hoarding Protocol.

The maximum grant that can be claimed is £10,000. Interim payments will be considered subject to the time duration of the clearance works. If the clearance programme ceases the grant will be paid estimated to the level of clearance carried out, any future grant payments will cease. Applicants cannot make more than one application for a Hoarding in respect of the same property.

3.1.8 Safe as Houses Grant (D8)

This is a discretionary grant for carrying out urgent minor works in a vulnerable or disabled person’s home to prevent accidents. The grant will be. available to homeowners aged 65 and over, or with disabilities and are on means-tested benefits or low incomes (with savings also taken into consideration).
The grant is also available to private tenants who have a full repairing obligation, if they are either over 65 years of age or disabled, and in receipt of a means-tested benefit (consideration may also be given to those just above the benefit threshold), if:

  • their home is unfit for human habitation or in substantial disrepair, and
  • they have occupied their homes for at least five years, and
  • they have the duty to carry out the works, and
  • their landlord consents to the works and agrees to limit rent increases over a five year period, except where the Council considers it unreasonable in the circumstances.

To include works to prevent Category One hazards (as determined by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)) that place the occupant at risk, for instance to provide hot water, safe electrical and gas installations, to avoid trip and fall hazards, to make a property secure. Referrals by Private Sector Housing Officers/Health Workers/nominated persons only.

The Maximum grant that can be claimed is £5,000.

3.1.9 Crime Prevention Grant (D9)

This is a discretionary grant for small scale home security and home safety measures. The maximum grant will normally be set at £2,000. These grants are not available in areas of the Borough where alternative schemes administered by the Community Safety Partnership are in operation.

The grant will be available to home-owners and tenants if they are either over 65 years of age or disabled, and in receipt of a means-tested benefit (consideration may also be given to those just above the benefit threshold).

For cases involving home security measures, applicants will have been victims and/or repeat victims of burglary. However, the local Crime Prevention Officer (CPO) will exercise discretion in respect of premises that are likely to be burgled in areas of high incidence and will consider referrals from other agencies for vulnerable groups and may also consider works to adjoining premises.

Referrals for home security improvements will normally be made by the CPO to the Private Sector Housing Team who will process the grant application. The CPO will also provide a schedule of recommended works. Landlords may make an application where works are communal and where more than one dwelling will benefit. In such cases, the Council will make a contribution of 75% towards the cost of the works up to a maximum of £1,000.

Where works are exclusive to individual premises and other conditions stated above are met, regardless of ownership the works will be 100% funded.

This grant does not cover costs of maintenance or subscription services for alarm systems.