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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 22 September, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Maintenance and Community Safety

 

Disabled Facilities Grants Annual Report 2013-14

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To set out the Council's performance delivering Disabled Facilities Grants during 2013-14 and the challenges for 2014 -15. 

Recommendations

1.         That the report on performance for delivering Disabled Facilities Grant during 2013-14 be noted.

2.         That the challenges facing the delivery of Disabled Facilities Grants during 2014-15 be noted

3.         That the report be forwarded Housing and Public Protection, Health and Social Care and Corporate Resources Scrutiny Committees.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To apprise Cabinet on the Council's performance delivering Disabled Facilities Grants during 2013-14.

2.         To apprise Cabinet of the challenges facing the Council in delivering Disabled Facilities Grants during 2014-15.

3.         In order for Housing and Public Protection, Health and Social Care and Corporate Resources Scrutiny committees to review the performance of the service.

Background

2.         The Council has a statutory duty to consider and approve applications for Disabled Facilities Grants where there is an identified need and the property can be reasonably adapted.

3.         Disabled Facilities Grants fund the adaptation of privately owned homes to help the resident remain living at their home as independently as possible for as long as possible.

4.         The delivery of Disabled Facilities Grant is a national performance indicator, measuring the time between a client contacting the authority and requesting a Disabled Facilities Grant to the time the adaptation works are completed on site.

5.         The Council has acknowledged its performance in delivering Disabled Facilities Grants had to be improved. 

6.         Officer time and financial resources have been invested in the Disabled Facilities service and improvements have been secured that have been reflected in the Council’s performance in relation to the national performance indicator over the past 6 years as shown below.

DFG

Relevant Issues and Options

7.         Cabinet and Scrutiny Committees have continually monitored the performance of the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) Service.  This report provides information on the achievements of the service during the financial year 2013-14, and sets out the challenges for 2014-15.

8.         Performance of the DFG Service continued to improve during 2013-14. During 2013-14 the average time to deliver a DFG was 284 days. This was 62 days less than 2012-13, constituting an improvement of 18% on that year's performance.

9.         The performance of local authorities across Wales have also improved, with only 5 local authorities failing to improve their delivery times for DFG's.  As a consequence, the Welsh Average for 2013/14 saw a 12% improvement. While the Vale's DFG service saw a greater improvement in its performance than the Welsh average during 2013/14, the Council's position remained 18th in the local authority rankings for this performance indicator, and as a result it continues to be placed in the lowest quartile.

10.      A detailed breakdown of the DFG service's performance at 2013/14 year-end is attached in the DFG Performance Review in Appendix 1.

11.      The overall target performance for the year 2013-14 was achieved and exceeded.  The local performance targets for stages within the DFG process were achieved for the enquiry to approval stage and the stage relating to approval to completion of the works.  However, the target for the time taken from first enquiry to an Occupational Therapist (OT) recommendation being received was not met.  While additional OT resources were put in place by the DFG service, the OT service had a number of staff on maternity leave.  Therefore, the additional staffing resources funded by the DFG service merely served to support existing resources in the OT service. Furthermore, due to the demands on the OT service from priority cases, the OT service was unable to progress the necessary work on the DFG lists, in the way that was anticipated.

12.      Despite this, during 2013-14 a number of significant actions were put in place and implemented to assist in the improvement of the service.  These include:

13.      The appointment of an Occupational Therapist within the DFG service.  This OT started in November 2013 and prioritises cases where it is immediately apparent, from the information taken at point of referral, that there appears to be a need for  DFG funding.

14.      Children requesting help with adaptations are prioritised (with a designated list) for an OT assessment to help reduce the delivery time for children.  The delivery time for children has been longer than for adults which is due in part to the time children were waiting for an OT assessment.

15.      Alterations to the DFG process have been undertaken to overlap stages in processing applications. From the beginning of January 2014, the means test and application are completed at the very early stages of the process while clients are waiting an OT assessment.  Previously, the means test and application was completed after the OT assessment was received by the DFG Service.  This change provides information to clients about their contribution towards a DFG earlier in the process so enables them to make an informed decision as to whether they wish to proceed.  If a client decides that they do not wish to proceed at this stage, an OT assessment for a DFG is not completed. This reduces the demands on the OT resource. As the original request to the Council was for an Occupational Therapy assessment, those deciding they do not wish to proceed with the DFG process are still able to access assessment via the Social Services OT Team.

16.      Electronic Tendering was introduced.  While work is continuing to introduce a framework for contractors, the current tendering process was made electronic to help reduce the administration burden of copying and collating several tendering packs for each grant.  While this has had limited impact on delivery time, it has reduced the running costs of the service.

17.      At the end of March 2013, the Council invited builders to tender for its adaptation framework. On the 30th June 2014, Cabinet agreed the delegation to enable this Council to enter into contract with the six successful contractors. During 2014/15 this tender process will be completed.

18.      During 2014-15 the following actions are planned to ensure continuous improvement of the service:

19.      DFG's processed through the Council's Agency Service, the adaptation work will be completed via the Framework from September 2014.

20.      A programme of training has been developed for staff on the new framework processes. During the first two months of the Framework there will be regular communication between staff and the contractors to ensure the processes are fit for purpose.

21.      During late autumn the Business Improvement Team will work with the DFG Team using the Business Improvement Toolkit to identify improvements in the grants administrative process to further improve the delivery time by streamlining the volume of paperwork involved.

22.      Review and amend the customer satisfaction forms to introduce generic questions to be used across all participating Welsh Authorities that will enable benchmarking of service quality across Wales.

23.      Set up a DFG Client Panel to enable the Council to consult the service user in more detail about the DFG process and future changes.

24.      Investigate opportunities to develop a loan that will help DFG clients to afford their DFG means test contribution.

25.      As a result of the changes undertaken to date, the performance of the DFG team at the end of Quarter 1 2014-15 has improved further and the average delivery time for a DFG was 239.  This performance is comparable to the Welsh Average for 2013-14.  By 26 August 2014, performance had further improved and stood at 216, only 10 days from the top quartile of authorities in 2013/14.

Challenges for the DFG Service

26.      The key challenges for the service during 2014-15 remains unchanged, i.e. reduce the delivery time for DFGs and maintain the improvement.  Key to achieving further improvement will be the introduction of the contractors Framework and further reduction in the time clients wait for an OT assessment. 

27.      As of April 2014, the time a client had to wait for an OT assessment for a DFG was 12 weeks.  If the Council is to further improve performance in the delivery of DFG's this waiting time needs to be reduced to at least 5 weeks. Based on existing resources, a target of 75 days has been set for 2014-15, which equates to a 10-12 week wait for assessment. This target has been set with regard being given to existing resources. 

28.      The OT within the DFG Service cannot assess all the DFG cases; input into the service is required from the OT service.  The OT service prioritises by urgency and allocates in date order.  As a result, the OT service is currently dealing with requests for assessments that are older that the requests currently being assessed for a DFG. Until this backlog is cleared the OT service will not be able to allocate cases from the DFG waiting list. The Occupational Therapy Team has secured additional funding from other government sources and despite continued difficulties appointing to short term vacancies, and the covering of maternity leave it is nevertheless anticipated that the team will be back to full establishment by the end of the calendar year.

29.      In addition, the Welsh Data Unit are working with local authorities to develop benchmarking data for private sector housing.  The collection of this benchmarking data is being piloted for DFG grants completed during 2013/14.  When this data becomes available to review, it will help the Council to understand in more detail it's DFG performance compared to other local authorities and help identify further areas of improvement. This data will also assist in ensuring an even playing field when the average delivery times for DFGs are compared nationally, and how the authority is ranked.  There is concern some local authorities are not measuring like for like performance as a result of a different interpretation of the National Performance Indicator's guidance.  When the benchmarking data is available, a further report will be presented to Cabinet to detail comparisons and differences and any further actions required to improve the service.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

30.      There are no direct resource implications as a result of this report.

31.      There is an identified capital budget for the approval and payment of Disabled Facilities Grants.

32.      Public Protection and Occupational Therapy Service have identified revenue budgets to deliver the service.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

33.      The adaptation of homes to allow residents the ability to continue to live in their own homes, thereby relieving housing supply and development pressure.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

34.      Housing Authorities in meeting their responsibilities under Housing Act 1985 (To consider housing conditions and provision in their area) are required by the Chronically Sick & Disabled Persons Act 1970 (CSDP) to have specific regard to the special needs of chronically sick and disabled persons.

35.      Social Services have duties and powers under a range of legislation including under the CSDP to disabled adults and children to assist in carrying out adaptation work or provision of additional facilities and in relation to children in Need under the Children Act 1989 to provide services which may include accommodation.

Crime and Disorder Implications

36.      There are no crime and disorder implications as a result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

37.      There are no equal opportunities implications as a result of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

38.      Corporate Outcome - Vale of Glamorgan residents have access to affordable, good quality, suitable housing and housing advice and support.

39.      Development Services Outcome 1 - Residents of the Vale feel safe in their communities, are healthy and have a good quality of life.

40.      Development Services Objective 1 - To improve the health and wellbeing of the residents and visitors by delivering a range of targeted and accessible services.

Policy Framework and Budget

41.      This report is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

42.      This report is not ward specific.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

43.      Social Care and Health

44.      Housing and Public Protection

45.      Corporate Resources

Background Papers

None.

 

Contact Officer

Elen Probert, Principal Housing and Pollution Officer 01446 709833.

 

Officers Consulted

Legal Services - John Lewis, Principal Lawyer

Financial Services - Rob Ingram, Principal Finance Officer

Social Services - Suzanne Clifton Operational Manager Adult Locality Services.

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas - Director of Development Services.

 

 

 

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