Agenda Item No 9

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 1 October 2018

Report of the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Planning

Disabled Facilities Grant Administration and Agency Service Fees

Purpose of the Report

  1. This report sets out proposals for changes to the fees and charging structure for both internal and external agents assisting Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs), in order to retain the service on a sustainable footing into the future.

Recommendations

  1. THAT Cabinet agree an application fee of £375 plus VAT be charged per application for a Disabled Facilities Grant or Major Adaptation Grant as of  1 January 2019.
  2. That Cabinet agree a net fee of up to 15% of the cost of works but not exceeding £4,500 may be charged by the Council's internal agent or external agent per application for a Disabled Facilities Grant or Major Adaptation Grant as of  1 January 2019.
  3. That Cabinet agree the Council's Grant Agency Service charge a fee of 15% of the cost of works to a maximum of £4,500 (plus VAT) to cover the non-statutory service it provides as of  1January 2019.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. To ensure the service offered by the Council above the statutory requirements in processing a Disabled Facilities Grant or Major Adaptation Grant application is funded accordingly. 
  2. To set out the Council's policy on the fees an internal or external agent can claim in managing the works required in a Disabled Facilities Grant or Major Adaptation Grant application.
  3. To set out the Council's policy on the fees an internal or external agent can claim in managing the works required in a Disabled Facilities Grant or Major Adaptation Grant application.

Background

  1. The Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 enables preliminary or ancillary services and charges in relation to the cost of a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) to be considered and approved as part of DFG application.
  2. The Housing Renewal Grants (Services and Charges) Order 1996 paragraph 2 specifies what services and charges the applicant is liable to pay.
  3. To assist DFG applicants through the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) application process, and to identify and manage the required grant aided work, the Council offers a Grant Agency Service.  This service is a discretionary service for which the Council charges.  This charge can be included in the DFG approval.
  4. DFG applicants may alternatively employ their own agent to manage the DFG works, and this too can be supported through the DFG grant approval.
  5. The agency service for a DFG includes producing detailed schedules and plans for the adaptation work, identifying and completing tendering exercises for a builder to complete the work and supervising that work once on site, addressing issues if and when they arise. 
  6. Evidence has shown providing and supporting agents in the DFG grant process is a valid service for DFG applicants, assisting them to undertake the works in a timely manner and maintains independence at home.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. The current fee structure for internal and external agent fees is complex.  The eligible fee structure differs depending on whether internal or external agents are used to assist applicants. It also places the cost of works into one of several bands, and the fee charged is based on the 'band' the cost of works falls within.  This fee structure has been reviewed and a simpler structure is proposed that is easier for the DFG applicant to understand and the Council to administer.  The new fee structure also removes any difference between a DFG applicant employing the Council's grant agency service and an external agent, thus making the system  more equitable.
  2. It is proposed that an administration fee of £375 plus VAT is charged by the Council for each DFG application made.  This fee covers the discretionary services provided by the Council in assisting a DFG applicant to complete a DFG application. This includes a home visit to the DFG applicant to assist them in completing the application and means testing forms, obtaining ownership details for the property and seeking consent forms from property owners where the person living at the property and benefiting from the adaptation is not the owner. This fee has been calculated using officer time and the relevant hourly rate to complete this work.
  3. It is further proposed up to an additional 15% of the cost of works plus VAT can be claimed by the DFG applicant's agent (internal or external), to fund the management of the adaptation works.  This fee will cover the cost of producing drawings and plans of the work, in addition to detailed surveys of the property, producing a detailed schedule of work and specification, tendering the work to be completed, supervising the work on site and managing requests for unforeseen work on site, and also managing requests for payments, invoices and associated paperwork.
  4. Under the current fee structure, the maximum fee an internal or external agent can claim is £4,500 net.  This maximum charge will be retained to limit the impact of the change on the small number of applicants who receive Major Adaptation Grants, the majority of which are adaptations for children.  In 2017/18, 3 out of 105 grants completed during the financial year would have seen fees exceed £4,500 without the cap in place, with the highest agent fee exceeding £10,000. 
  5. Consideration has been given to the impact of this change in fee structure.  A comparison of fees charged under the current system and the proposed system for grant approval during the financial year 2017-18, shows an approximate 50/50 split of applicant that will see a benefit and a negative impact from this change. 
  6. Under the proposal set out above, 50% of DFG applicants will see the fee charged reduce under the proposed system compared with the current fee structure in place.
  7. However, 50% of DFG applicants will see an increase under the proposed fee system fees compared to the current fee structure.  The average fee increase in this group is £217, the highest difference in the group is £2,100 and the lowest is £8.  As the volume of the adaptation work on site increases, so does the total cost of the project and the amount of agent time to project manage the adaptation work, which is reflected in the increased fee.
  8. It is proposed to implement the new fee structure for internal and external agents from the 1st January 2019 for all new DFG approvals.  This enables applications in the system to progress without change, and new DFG applicants and agents coming into the system to be informed of the change and enable them make an informed decision on continuing.
  9. This proposed fee structure will apply to the Disabled Facilities Grant approved under the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 and the Major Adaptation Grant approved under the Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England and Wales) Order 2002.
  10. The Council offers an internal Grant Agency Service to DFG applicants.  From the 1st January 2018 the Council's internal Grant Agency Service will charge 15% of the cost of the works to a maximum of £4,500 (plus VAT), to cover the cost of this discretionary service the Council offers to DFG grant applicants.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. The charges proposed reflect the costs of delivering the discretionary services and the requirement to obtain income where possible to assist in delivering a balanced budget, whilst at the same time seeking to delivering a service that is sustainable and efficient.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. There are no direct sustainability or climate change implications from this report, although the works to adapt premises does allow for the Council to play a key role in promoting independent living.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. Section 2 (3) (b) of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 states preliminary or ancillary service and charges in respect to the cost of the grant may be included in a DFG application.
  2. The Housing Renewal Grants (Services and Charges) Order 1996 para 2 (a)-(p) specifies what services the applicant for a DFG is liable to pay. However, it does not specify the amount of such charges.

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. An equalities impact assessment has been completed.
  2. The costs of the proposed fee structure can be met by the grant assistance.  

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. Well-being Outcome 1: An inclusive and Safe Vale

Objective 2: providing decent homes and safe communities

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This is a matter for Executive decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. This report relates to all wards in the Vale of Glamorgan and hence no Ward Member consultation undertaken.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Homes and Safe Communities.

Background Papers

None.

Contact Officer

Elen Keen, Team Leader, Neighbourhood and Housing Renewal

Officers Consulted

Operational Manager, Regeneration

Legal Services, Senior Lawyer

Finance Support Manager

Head of Service, Regeneration and Planning

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas, Managing Director