LIFE-CHANGING grant funding to make homes more accessible has fallen over the past decade in Bury,

Yet the national trend has been for councils to collectively spend 25 per cent more in that time.

While 73 local authorities across the country together spent £20.8m more on Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) last year compared to a decade ago, Bury Council spent £125,130 less.

The council spent £760,461 on 125 grants in the last financial year, a rise from £521,659 spent on 89 grants the previous year.

Although council funding for DFGs has fluctuated over the past decade, in Bury it has not exceeded £885,591 since 2010.

Meanwhile, freedom of information requests submitted on behalf of A Wood Idea have revealed that council funding for DFGs is at a 10-year high.

But while expenditure on DFGs has fallen, demand for grant assistance has actually gone up, Bury Council has revealed.

Last year, 226 referrals for DFGs were received by Bury Council – the highest figure for any of the last 15 years.

At the rate that referrals are being received this year, it looks as if this record high will be exceeded, according to the council.

A spokesman said: “There has been a substantial increase over time in the number of cases that have been assessed and referred for a DFG. This should be reflected in the number of DFGs approved and the amounts expended.

“The DFG service is well received by customers with satisfaction rating of over 90 per cent consistently, and helps disabled customers live longer, more safely and more independently in their own home.”

DFGs are available to homeowners, housing association tenants and private tenants. Council tenants who need adaptations are assisted through a different route.

The most common types of adaptations include stair lifts and conversion of bathrooms to level access shower rooms but, in some cases, can be as complex as providing bedroom or bathroom extensions.

Mandatory DFGs are means tested for adults – but not children – and have a statutory maximum of £30,000.

The process is governed by legislation and is inherently bureaucratic, according to Bury Council.

The local authority adopted a policy in 2014 to offer a range of discretionary assistance to help overcome some of the barriers presented by national legislation and in an attempt to streamline the process.

This means there is a simple form of assistance for adaptations costing less than £5,000, options to exceed the government’s £30,000 limit, and help to move house if that is more appropriate.

The starting point for someone requiring assistance is an identification of a need. The “front door” to this is the council’s Adult Care Connect and Direct Hub based at Textile Hall in Bury town centre.

A council spokesman said: “There are several ways in which the needs of a disabled person may be met. This may include such things as the provision of advice and equipment, minor adaptations, offering more appropriate accommodation or care at home, and DFGs. A DFG is just one tool among many to help customers meet their needs. Assessments are carried out in a thoughtful way and will determine, in consultation with the customer, what is the most appropriate form of help.”

Overall, councils in the North West had the highest collective average spend in the last decade at £25,952,343.