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Thursday, October 4, 2012

AM slams 'postcode lottery' for disability grants

An end to the 'postcode lottery’ of disability grant funding has been called for by Clwyd South Assembly Member Ken Skates.
Figures published recently by the Local Government Data Unit show that some councils in Wales are taking over 600 days to pay the Disabled Facilities Grant. 
In Denbighshire the average wait is said to be 219 days.
The money is a local council grant that helps towards the cost of adapting someones home and pays for vital equipment such as hand rails or disability ramps.
Last year Newport council took an average of 638 days to pay the Disabled Facilities Grant compared to Conwy council that took just 180 days.
In September Sarah Rochira, the Older People's Commissioner for Wales, said she would take public bodies, including councils, to court if they fail in their obligations to Wales' 710,000 older people.
Mr Skates said: “It’s obviously unacceptable that there is such a wide disparity across Wales in the time it takes elderly and disabled people to receive their Disabled Facilities Grant. In some areas people are waiting four times longer for payments to be processed.
“Whilst I do understand that some adaptations are complex and expensive, we do need to see all councils operating within the 12 month statutory period to pay grants. After all, experts say an average grant of £7,500 can keep someone out of residential care for four years, which can cost over £100,000 so it makes sense to get things done quicker.
“Whilst we don’t want to see the Older People’s Commissioner intervening on councils or taking them to court, it’s up to local authorities to make life easier for older and disabled people across Wales.
“It is possible for councils to do better. Conwy were one of the worst performing authorities only a few years ago, but having made it a corporate priority within the council they now have their payment wait down from over 1,000 days to just 180 days.
“This is the model we should be using to improve services for people and communities right across Wales.
“As a member of the Local Government Committee in the Assembly I will certainly be recommending to my fellow committee members that we look into this matter in order that we can monitor the improvements we need to see in council performance right across Wales.”
The average time it took to pay out grants in Wales was 326 days last year.
In Wales, the maximum available amount is £36,000 which can be spent on lifts, ramps, widening doors, installing a downstairs bathroom or improving a heating system.

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