The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change presented a report which updated the Governance and Audit Committee on actions taken to progress improvements to the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) service and provide information on the position to date.
She explained that a number of reports had been presented to the Committee over the past 3 years which highlighted the challenges and shortfalls in delivery of DFGs The Regional Internal Audit Shared Service also undertook an audit and their report was received in July 2020 with recommendations. Further background was at section 3 of the report.
The Group Manager – Housing and Community Regeneration explained that on 1st April 2021 the Council ceased the provision of the agent delivery model and the Council had taken full control of end to end delivery of DFGs. However, the citizen still had the choice to go externally for DFG works to be delivered.
She added that the Auditor General Wales Report: Housing Adaptations 2018 made 9 recommendations (R1 – R9). The Wales Audit Office (WAO): Service Users Perspective of DFGs 2018 made 10 recommendations (P1 – P10) and the Regional Internal Audit Shared Service 2019/20 made 7 recommendations (SS1 – SS7). Many of the recommendations were similar, and these were grouped in section 4 of the report, with the full findings listed in appendices 1-3 of the report.
A Member mentioned that a constituent of his was an amputee and travelled in a manual wheelchair. There was limited dropped kerbs in her community and that meant she was unable to travel to certain areas. The Member asked if consideration could be given to ensure the DFG service worked in partnership with the highways department as this issue, as well as many other issues, were not limited to one service area.
The Head of Performance and Partnership Services was not aware of this specific case but would take that information away and come back to the Member outside of the meeting. He added that the DFG service was much improved since it was taken over by the Council and therefore collaboration was possible with other internal services to ensure that these requirements of residents were met.
A Member highlighted the point that was made in the report regarding the lack of contractors available due to the large number of housing developments in the area. She asked if the Group Manager – Housing and Community Regeneration has had the opportunity to put this forward as we were currently in the process of developing the Local Development Plan (LDP) foundations for the next 10 years. The Group Manager – Housing and Community Regeneration was not sure on how these issues formed part of the LDP but would make enquiries with the planning department regarding this. The Head of Performance and Partnership Services added that the framework development was also there to ensure good working relations with builders and contractors and commitment from them to carry out the necessary works needed.
A Member asked if there was an ongoing cost to the authority for implementing this scheme.
The Head of Performance and Partnership Services explained that, with the service being brought in house, it allows for hiring internally which is a benefit to the authority in terms of costs while also retaining experience.
A Member believed that more needed to be done to ensure homes were more accessible before people move into them. She explained that many of the DFGs evolve around the person but can take months to be implemented and believed that houses should be built as more accessible. The Head of Performance and Partnership Services explained that this was more relating to new builds but stated that pressure was being put on Registered Social Landlords (RSL) to work with Welsh Government and build homes that were more accessible in terms of ramps, access points for charging and bathrooms that were fit for purpose. The Group Manager – Housing and Community Regeneration added that another avenue for adaptations was through the RSLs to apply for Physical Adaptation Grants. This was separate from the Local Authority and were provided by Welsh Government.
A Member mentioned about more work needing to be done outside properties also with regards to broken pavements and potholes as this was affecting residents in wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
The Chairperson asked in relation to Management Information (MI) how this was being built into it as it was important to understand how the authority was meeting its targets and timeframes to ensure it was working efficiently. The Head of Performance and Partnership Services explained that, as it was still a new service in terms of being brought inhouse, the information for this was not yet conclusive, particularly as the pandemic had caused many issues with delivery. He added that the current delivery days was around 307, with it previously taking 330 days on average. The target number was 240 days pre pandemic and so there had been a marginal improvement, but an improvement nonetheless considering the effect of the pandemic.
The Chairperson asked that a further update report be brought to the Committee around June 2022 to see how the DFG service was being embedded as that would be a year on from the service being brought in house.
RESOLVED: That the Committee noted progress to date to improve the DFG service.