This section covers the procedures and requirements for the approval and payment of Disability Adaptation Grant (DAG) to Associations, undertaking ‘structural’ adaptations to make dwellings more suitable for tenants with physical disabilities or sensory impairments
The statutory framework for the Department of Health to ‘make arrangements’ for housing adaptations is constituted within a number of pieces of legislation. The main statutes are:
- Primarily in the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (NI) Act 1978, in conjunction with
- The Health & Personal Social Services (NI) Order 1972,
- The Disabled Persons (NI) Act 1989.
These requirements are applied with due regard to the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 and the Disability Discrimination (NI) Order (DDO) 2006 which may apply to Association-owned common areas.
The Department of Health has opted to make its arrangements in public sector housing through the Housing Executive (NIHE) and Housing Associations. Associations are currently funded for the capital element of the provision of adaptations by grant aid from NIHE (Development Programme Group/DPG) provided by the Department for Communities (DfC). The designation given to the grant is Disability Adaptation Grant or (DAG).
This guidance covers the procedures and requirements for the approval and payment of Disability Adaptation Grant (DAG) to Associations, undertaking ‘structural’ adaptations to make dwellings more suitable for tenants with physical disabilities or sensory impairments. Non-structural repairs such as nursing aids are the responsibility of the Department of Health or its designated agent. The guidance also provides some examples of best practice. Associations should note that DfC expect best practice to be followed unless there is good reason otherwise. Reasons should be recorded on the relevant file for inspection if required. Adaptations provided as an integral part of a new build or acquisition scheme are normally included in the scheme works costs and funded using Housing Association Grant (HAG) as part of the scheme approval process.
- See Development Guide for more information
Please note any reference materials or useful contacts referred to in this guidance are intended as a general indicator only. Users of the guidance are responsible for ensuring that they access the most up-to-date versions and sources of relevant information.
DfC’s conditions for payment of grant require Associations to satisfactorily undertake a series of milestone activities and requirements:
- person eligibility criteria;
- work type eligibility criteria;
- conditions based on works cost thresholds
- ot liaison arrangements
- formal appraisal of options according to cost threshold
- ha brief to consultant/contractor
- tenant Interaction procedures
- procurement requirements
- advance approval requirements
- identification of eligible adaptation costs
- vat exemption checks
- payment claim procedures / HAG or DAG recovery
- reporting & regulation
Eligibility criteria for Disability Adaptation Grant (DAG)
Pre-conditions for DAG
There are a number of pre-conditions that the Association must be satisfied are met before grant aid from NIHE (DPG) can be considered. Where these conditions are not met it is good practice for Housing Associations to investigate alternative sources of funding, where appropriate, such as its own maintenance budget, Health & Social Care Trusts and voluntary agencies or direct the client to relevant sources of information.
Table 1: Adaptation Pre-conditions outlines the qualifying criteria which must be demonstrated before a claim for grant can be considered.
Adaptations can be considered for:
- tenant/s and/or person/s who normally reside in the household of the tenant;
- licensee in shared housing; and
- for communal use by one or more named tenants in a shared housing situation.
Adaptation funding is not normally considered where:
The tenant is seeking to move or transfer.
- For more information see Table 1: Adaptation Pre-conditions
Eligible Works - Examples of ‘Structural’ Features
The list in Table 2: Adaptation codes for Structural Items, while not exhaustive, gives a number of examples of adaptations that may be provided for a person with physical disabilities or sensory impairments, and are generally admissible for Disability Association Grant (DAG). These are items, which, because they are fixed to or become part of the structure of a dwelling or its environs, may be regarded as ‘structural.’ Associations are advised to review the explanatory notes at the foot of the table which provide further clarification.
Table 3: Examples of minor works not normally requiring OT referral, highlights those items from Table 2 that would usually be expected to fall beneath the £1,000 works cost threshold. Multiple works may bring aggregate works costs over the threshold and may be an indicator of more complex health and/or care needs. An OT recommendation is required in such cases. Also where works are under the £1,000 threshold but where an Association identifies potential health and safety issues requiring professional guidance an OT recommendation may be sought at its discretion. Associations must use this facility judiciously ensuring that any such referrals are reasonable and justified so as not to create unnecessary delays for the client waiting for adaptations to be provided.
For more information:
- Table 2: Adaptation Codes for Structural Items
- Table 3: Examples of Minor works not normally requiring OT Referral
‘Non-structural’ items such as portable aids and equipment are deemed the responsibility of Health & Social Care Trusts and are not eligible for funding from the NIHE (DPG).
Also ineligible, are costs normally associated with approved elements required to be included in Housing Association Grant (HAG) funded schemes i.e. items which were required to be provided by the various design standards applicable at the time the dwelling was built. An example would be provision of ramped or level access to a purpose-built wheelchair bungalow, as this would constitute double-funding.
See Design Standards tables for information. In addition, works normally defined as Maintenance items are ineligible for DAG funding.
See Property Maintenance for guidance on DfC’s requirements for Associations’ property maintenance.
NIHE (DPG), Schemes Team are responsible for the day-to-day administration of payments for minor and major adaptations and, in liaison with technical officers, dealing with applications for the advance approval of adaptations where required. On occasion Schemes team may make the decision that work carried out is ineligible for funding. It is expected that this should be by exception as Association control mechanisms should pick up any issues prior to this stage.
In this instance, an Association may request a review of that decision in writing to NIHE (DPG), Programme & Enabling Manager presenting any new grounds, not previously considered, and the decision will be reviewed.
Note. If there are no new grounds presented for consideration a review will not be carried out.
Where there are an unreasonable number of instances arising with an Association that require NIHE (DPG) intervention the matter will be raised with the designated officer in that Association with managerial responsibility for adaptations. Such situations would be deemed as a breach of the self-certification facility allowed by DfC. If the matter is not resolved thereafter NIHE (DPG) will have no alternative but to refer the matter to DfC Inspections Team. DfC may consider a range of actions as it deems appropriate which could include, for example, the suspension or removal of the self-certification facility afforded to the Association.
Methods of notification
The need for adaptations may initially be identified to the Association in a number of ways, including the tenant, a tenant’s relative or representative, a member of the Association’s staff, or through Health and Social Services sources. The Association must ensure it has appropriate internal systems in place to record and undertake timely and effective action in respect of requests for adaptations to its property.
DfC requires that the tenant is notified by letter or email of the priority their request has been assigned. They should be told the following key items of information:
- the criteria for setting priorities of assessment and provision;
- the timescale for completion of assessment;
- the process of assessment and possible outcomes; and
- the process for appeal or complaint
Grant-aid from NIHE (DPG) to a Housing Association is subject to:
- compliance with the Adaptation Pre-conditions, and
- compliance with all relevant conditions for Grant set out by DfC.
This is managed, largely, through DfC allowing Associations to operate a self-certification process in respect of minor adaptations, partly for major adaptations and other advance approval situations, and payment claims. Paragraph 2.9 outlines the primary conditions for grant based on the works cost threshold. These must be fulfilled along with the other requirements set out in the various stages.
Key thresholds and requirements
From 1 April 2018, a minimum threshold of £250 (excluding VAT and on-costs) for Disability Adaptation Grant (DAG) claims for adaptation works to individual properties will apply. If the total value of the adaptation works to one property is below £250 (excluding VAT and on-costs), the works should be self-funded by associations.
Note that associations should not group together works to multiple properties (which are individually below £250) for the purposes of making a total claim over £250.
The reason for this revised approach is to reduce the disproportionately high volume of administrative work (both by NIHE (DPG) and associations) that is required to process approvals which account for a relatively small percentage of overall DAG budget expenditure.
(a) Adaptation works under £1,000 must be necessary and relevant to the person’s needs
Where the ‘structural’ adaptations required are relatively minor – i.e., where the estimated works costs are unlikely to exceed £1,000 – the Association may proceed without obtaining specialist advice from an Occupational Therapist, provided the features are necessary and relevant for the tenant’s needs. The Association must confirm that the pre-conditions in Table 1: ‘Adaptation Pre-conditions’ are met. OT recommendations for adaptations with costs below this threshold should not normally be requested by Associations. OT guidance should be sought judiciously i.e. only in exceptional cases where the adaptation cannot be safely provided without an OT recommendation and specification.
(b) Adaptation works over £1,000 - an Occupational Therapist (OT) recommendation must be obtained
Where the ‘structural’ features required are more complex – i.e., where the estimated works costs are likely to exceed £1,000 – the Association must obtain specialist advice from the Occupational Therapist attached to the relevant Health & Social Care Trust. The Association must identify the needs of the individual in partnership with the OT. The diagnosis is not required, however the recommendation will include “Qualification Certifications” that are relevant and should provide the rationale for the recommendations being made. The OT should confirm that the client meets the eligibility criteria for grant-funded adaptations see Table 1: Adaptation Pre-conditions.
- Occupational Therapists will refer to the legislative framework that governs their practice when making recommendations. By stating the individual is registered or eligible for registration under Section 1 and provision of housing adaptations under section 2(e) of the Chronically Sick & Disabled Persons(NI) Act 1978, the Occupational Therapist is confirming the client meets the eligibility criteria for grant-funded adaptations see Table 1: Adaptation Pre-conditions
- The DfC/DoH with other key stakeholders have jointly endorsed the adaptations design communications toolkit as good practice for cross sector communications and disability design standards benchmarking. It is available at:
NIHE - Adaptations Design Communications Toolkit
- The Association agrees, in discussion with the client and OT, which elements in the OT recommendation are to be provided, subject to technical feasibility. This includes the discussion of any possible alternatives based on the particular design features of the dwelling (i.e. LTH) and the essential needs of the client.
- Should there be a disagreement between the above parties in relation to a recommendation, it is suggested that a joint visit is undertaken to determine the optimal solution for the client.
Note. The only exception to this rule is where the assessment and confirmation of eligibility is undertaken by an appropriate ‘specialist’ authorised by the Health & Social Care Trust – e.g., a specialist Social Worker for the deaf or Sensory Disability Rehabilitation Worker. N.B. A recommendation from a generalist social worker is not acceptable.
For more information see OT Liaison (see Heading below)
(c) Adaptation works over £4,000 - an Option Appraisal must be undertaken
See Option Appraisal for more information.
(d) Major Adaptation proposals costing £20,000 and over must obtain NIHE (DPG)’s advance approval of design and cost
Where the works cost of adaptations to any single dwelling is likely to exceed £20,000 the Association should inform NIHE (DPG) of the situation as early as possible. Advance approval procedures must be followed.
This allows the Association the opportunity to submit details including the proposed work and costs for consideration by NIHE (DPG) before work starts to ensure that:
- the Association has opted for the optimal course of action as set out in paragraph 2.9 (e) below, and
- grant will be available when the Association makes its application for DAG
(e) All Options have been fully identified, investigated, costed and considered.
The optimal course of action will provide a reasonable balance across three key areas. It will:
- meet the client’s future needs;
- make best use of available social housing stock; and
- provide value for money
Occupational Therapy (OT) Liaison
A crucial element in the successful provision of adaptations in Association property is the role of the Trust’s Occupational Therapy department. The OT’s letter must be signed and dated giving clear information on the client, including their name and address. In order to successfully deliver adaptations in a timely and cost effective manner Associations must develop effective liaison arrangements with OT professionals. Two crucial aspects in effectively managing this process are:
- associations must have adequate and clear guidance or procedures in place for its staff regarding standards expected in terms of OT Liaison, and
- associations must communicate and address HA Guide compliance issues with the OT in respect of their recommendations for adaptations
It is not sufficient to accept an OT recommendation in respect of complex adaptation recommendations without then conducting a thorough examination of available options. It is not appropriate to challenge the OT’s professional assessment of their client’s functionality requirements, however, Associations are expected to scrutinise OT recommendations in terms of the design solution as outlined in paragraph 2.12. This examination must be done in liaison with the OT, the design consultant and where appropriate, the tenant/client.
Identification of Essential and Desirable items
Due to limited funding available it is not possible to provide OT recommended elements/items that are preferred or ‘desired’ by the client. The wording of the Occupational Therapist (OT) recommendation should clearly define such items (e.g. ‘would benefit from’ may suggest the item specified is desirable rather than essential and this must be clarified with the OT before proceeding further). Where the boundary of desirable and essential items is unclear the association must clarify these items through consultation with the OT and client at an early stage prior to costing or in the case of minor works, implementation. The association is responsible for initiating such discussions to rule out over-provision and to provide a value for money solution. Solutions must be sensible and associations must give due regard to the possible impact on the future use of its housing stock in making its decision about whether or how to adapt its property.
Scrutiny of Occupational Therapist recommendations prior to decision
The association must subject the recommendations in the OT recommendation to detailed scrutiny in terms of:
a) DfC Design requirements and space standards
b) Feasibility - taking account of the physical features of the property;
c) Best use of Life time Homes features (if applicable);
d) Cost, procurement and value for money; and
e) Meeting the client’s future needs.
Note. This process should be approached proportionately by the association, according to the complexity and cost of the adaptation recommended. For example, minor or standard works will probably focus on the eligibility issues contained in Table 1 ‘Adaptations Pre-conditions’. However complex or major adaptations will require in-depth evaluation by qualified persons within the Association and its Consultant, where relevant.
(a) DSD Design requirements and space standards
Associations must first consider DfC’s Design Standards in any deliberations regarding OT recommendations. The minimum standards as laid out in DfC’s Design Guide apply to all adaptation proposals regardless of cost. In considering such works Associations should carefully consider Guide compliance issues before making a decision on the way forward. Where the final agreed adaptation does not comply with required standards the Association must provide justification as to why these cannot be achieved.
The OT will be able to advise Associations on those functional difficulties that are relevant to the recommendations being made, the required adaptation features, and the associated requirements etc (e.g. turning circles or space required for specialist equipment etc); this may not be the case when the requirements are more complex and technical.
Associations must then identify those instances where the OT recommendation is for provision of facilities or space provision over and above DfC’s standards. Additional space or facilities above the norm must be clearly identified and dimensions shown on any plans drawn up, and realistically costed out. The recommendation to provide to a higher standard must be discussed with the OT and the recommendation for works amended accordingly. Exceptionally, where the additional provision is deemed essential the decision and reasons for this additional requirement should be recorded and presented with any advance approval submission. This examination of proposals must take place BEFORE the decision to adapt is made. For adaptations over £4,000, this will form part of the Option appraisal considerations.
Note: If not justified or reasonable, NIHE (DPG) may deem such items as ineligible for grant. The cost of any excess provision may be deducted from approved grant. Associations should consider how they will fund any such additional work.
Guidance on designing for the disabled to BS8300 standards is contained in Design Standards.
(b) Feasibility - taking account of the physical features of the property
In cases, where the existing dwelling cannot readily be modified to meet the needs of an existing tenant, other housing solutions may need to be considered. Although an OT has a great deal of experience in assessing the needs of disabled people, it is not reasonable to expect them to understand the construction implications of their recommendations (this particularly refers to major adaptation work). It is therefore important that any OT recommendation is considered by a staff member of the Association who understands the construction implications/ practicalities etc. Alternatively recommendations can be referred to a Consultant who is fully briefed on DfC Design and space standards, if there are any construction issues.
N.B. The appointment of a consultant or use of a suitably qualified and competent person directly employed by the Association is a procurement requirement for works for £10,000 and above. Any such person must either hold professional indemnity insurance or where in-house services are employed must be similarly covered by insurances held by the Association.
Associations should not implement OT recommendations without first examining them, including a pre-inspection of the property where appropriate, and engaging with the OT to resolve any construction issues that arise. Consider whether the adaptation works recommended are reasonable and practicable; having regard to the age and character of the property.
(c) Making best use of Life-time Homes features
Associations must take care when implementing adaptations to dwellings with Life-time Homes status. It is important to ensure that the Life-time Homes (LTH) status of the dwelling is not compromised. The requirements of this standard are explained in detail in Design Standards.
The LTH standard is designed to ensure that the home is flexible, adaptable and accessible throughout a person’s lifetime. Compromising this standard e.g. by replacing a bath with a shower adaptation would mean that the adaptation would be unlikely to receive grant funding. There are implications for the Association in terms of subsequent tenancies and future use of the property that need to be considered. Furthermore, NIHE (DPG) could ultimately recoup the enhanced grant which was paid in respect of the provision of the dwelling.
If the decision is taken to adapt the client’s existing LTH home the DfC’s standard of first choice is for Associations to make full use of life time homes features in preference to other more costly options.
Where the OT recommends an adaptation which does not make best use of LTH provision (i.e. a proposed extension instead of through-floor lift facility) the Association must fully explore this issue with the OT. OTs are not necessarily fully conversant with Lifetime Homes features and so it is the Association’s responsibility to ascertain that any available and relevant LTH options have been considered. Exceptionally, where the recommendation is determined to be essential, the decision and reasons must be recorded and presented to NIHE (DPG) with any advance approval submission.
Full details must be recorded on the Option Appraisal for Adaptation Proposals -OA1 and Application for Advance Approval of Adaptation Proposal AA1 forms and copies retained on file for audit purposes.
See Table 4: Situations requiring advance approval for more information
(d) Cost, procurement and value for money
Once the necessary ‘structural’ features have been identified, which the Association considers practical and can be achieved at reasonable cost, the Association should either seek advance approval from NIHE (DPG) or arrange for the works to be undertaken without undue delay in accordance with cost threshold and advance approval requirements.
The Association should consider the extent of the adaptation requirements identified in the OT recommendation (where applicable). Then, using a suitably qualified competent person employed by or commissioned by the Association themselves, develop a specification / schedule of works / drawings (if required) incorporating all the associated works, to allow for the supply of competitive quotations/tenders or adaptation delivery as appropriate. This process is managed by the Association by way of its design brief.
Guidance on Procurement requirements for Associations (including adaptations) is contained in Procurement and CPD Procurement [external link] . The Association must determine the best value procurement method for each adaptation. It is not enough to automatically go with the Association’s standard procurement route as this may not provide best value in every case. Best value will not always be achieved by choosing the cheapest option which may not fully satisfy the future needs of the disabled person and thus become wasted expenditure.
(e) Meeting the client’s future needs
As well as identifying the tenant’s immediate needs, anticipated future needs must also be considered - this is to ensure the adaptations proposed will suffice for a suitable period of time and meet ‘best value’ objectives. Where only the client’s short-term needs are being met through the OT recommendations it is unlikely that funding could reasonably be provided. In such cases, Associations should normally have thoroughly investigated and implemented an alternative option. See paragraph 2.14 ‘Consideration of Options’ for more information. Exceptionally, where a suitable alternative course of action is not reasonably available, Associations should discuss the full circumstances of the case with the Health & Social Care Trust to ascertain if an alternative source of funding is available.
The OT report contains personal information about their Client. DfC require that the recommendation is treated as a confidential document with restricted access. Therefore it is not appropriate for this to be shared with an external agency, such as consultant or contractor. The report should only be shared with NIHE (DPG)/DfC as required by the conditions for grant. See HA Brief to Consultant / Contractor for information on the means by which OT recommendations are required to be communicated to either a contractor or consultant.
Consideration of Options
In the majority of cases, the tenant’s existing dwelling can be adapted for the tenant’s specific needs. However, in a number of cases, alternative housing options may need to be considered. It is the responsibility of the Association, as landlord, to ensure that all reasonable options are fully explored, in liaison with the OT and client, before any decision is reached on the best way to proceed. Associations, as landlords of the properties under consideration, are responsible for making the decision whether or not to adapt its property with due consideration to all matters outlined on the Option Appraisal form. It is essential that the OT and client are kept fully informed throughout the decision-making process. Associations must give due consideration to any statutory requirements in reaching decisions on a case by case basis and keep a copy of the Option Appraisal and related correspondence on file for audit purposes.
Unfortunately, there will be cases, for technical or financial reasons, where it may not be feasible or practicable to proceed with the OT recommendation to adapt. A decision to offer transfer to suitably adapted or purpose built property which meets the client’s support needs may be the solution reached.
See Option Appraisal for more information on all the factors to be considered in identifying the association’s preferred option.
Providing the Adaptation
Best practice indicates that the Association should:
- obtain OT agreement of any plans or sketches detailing proposed adaptation work prior to commencement;
- hold a pre-works meeting on site with HA representative, OT, Tenant/Client and contractor;
- major adaptations – In exceptional circumstances only where essential and substantive changes to planned works during on-site stage the Association are required to obtain advance approval of any significant amendments/deviations from the approved work and costs from NIHE (DPG) and liaise with the OT to ensure any changes still meet client’s needs.
Inspection of Properties for Adaptation purposes
It is considered best practice for the Association to undertake an inspection of a dwelling by a suitably qualified and competent person on receipt of a request to provide an adaptation. This preparation ensures the Association is fully informed. It reduces the possibility of any unforeseen difficulties becoming apparent if the request leads to the decision to provide an adaptation. There are clear benefits in terms of:
- making best use of the Association’s housing stock,
- informed decision-making,
- providing a quality service to the tenant and enhanced satisfaction with the service provided,
- ensuring that any work specified is appropriate (i.e. takes account of the physical features of the dwelling and its surroundings), meets the client’s needs and includes only essential works
The Association is required to undertake a final snagging exercise and inspection of the work at practical completion stage. The inspection must be carried out by a suitably qualified and competent person. This inspection is required for Audit purposes to ensure that the contractor has provided the full adaptation work as specified and that the work has been completed to the required standards and quality. It also provides the Association with the opportunity to inform the tenant of any instructions around usage, minor maintenance or call-out procedures. Records of the outcome of all inspections carried out to a particular dwelling for adaptation purposes should be retained on file and be made available for review as required.
For adaptations with anticipated works costs over £4,000, Association’s decisions must to be taken by use of a formal Option Appraisal.This needs to be a considered argument demonstrating that the adaptation as presented by the Association is VFM and meets the objectives of the project compared to alternative options, (for adaptations over £10,000), including a cost analysis with detailed cost breakdowns in support where applicable. Due consideration should be given to any non-monetary benefits and constraints given the type of work area. An appraisal of alternative options to carrying out an OT recommended adaptation is unlikely where works costs are less than £10,000, while the adaptation solution itself will still need to be evaluated. Therefore, requirements for completion of the Option Appraisal form - OA1 are:
- adaptation works costs between £4,000 and £10,000 Associations should complete sections A, B, D, and G only;
- adaptations with works costs of £10,000 and over all sections of the form must be completed
Value for Money
Option Appraisal is a key tool for selecting the preferred course of action in a particular case and satisfying public accountability requirements. It is a systematic process for examining alternative uses of resources, focusing on assessment of needs, objectives, options, costs, benefits, risks, funding, affordability and other factors relevant to decisions. Failure to demonstrate that a particular major adaptation proposal represents a VFM investment may delay or prevent approval of any project.
The key areas outlined in the Option Appraisal provide a guide to Associations as to the type of issues that should be considered as part of their decision-making processes for any complex adaptation proposals.
Associations should be aware that the principle of commensurate effort applies in undertaking any option appraisal i.e. the resources to be devoted to appraisal should be in proportion to the scale or importance of the objectives and resource consequences. For example, adaptations expected to cost over £20,000 are required to be subject to a more detailed consideration reflecting the greater financial commitment involved.
Back to Adaptation Guide contents
Housing Association Brief to Consultant/Contractor
DSD requires that, for all adaptation works regardless of cost, Associations must compile a design brief for its consultant and/or contractor. The appointment of a consultant does not negate the Association’s overall responsibility to manage the adaptation process. In order to do this effectively DfC requires that the HA prepare a design brief for issue to the consultant and/or contractor. The Association should incorporate any agreed adaptation requirements into its brief taking account of the outcome of considerations detailed in OT Liaison. This provides assurance that the Association has evaluated any OT recommendations as required.
The format of the brief should be proportionate to the type and cost of work to be carried out. The Brief should include all pertinent information to facilitate delivery of the adaptation to meet requirements - such as for example, compliance with DfC design standards, work and material specifications, the outcome of OT and tenant/client liaison, and any relevant background information.
The contents of the brief will vary on a case-by-case basis but should contain all relevant information required to complete the task in hand, whether that is drawing up plans and detailed costings or carrying out the actual adaptation work as applicable. The HA brief then forms part of any advance approval submission to NIHE (DPG) and in all cases must be retained on the association’s file for DfC inspection as required.
The Associations’ role in producing an effective brief for issue when commissioning any consultant is vital. Failure to clearly set out at the start the Association’s requirements in terms of compliance with DfC standards, the outcome of OT and tenant/client liaison, and any relevant background information may result in over-provision, the future needs of the client not being met and a proposal which is not value for money.
Resolving the resultant problems with such proposals may create avoidable delay in the payment or approval processes and ultimately, all or part of proposed works may not be grant-aided. Further the Association must monitor any consultant’s work and progress, and should finally check plans etc to ensure its brief requirements have been achieved.
The Association must have appointed a member of staff to oversee all adaptations and provide a ‘contact point’ for enquiries. The Association as landlord is responsible for keeping its tenants fully and accurately informed at all stages in the adaptation process; from initiation; to advance approval where applicable; to completion. It is not appropriate to transfer this responsibility to NIHE (DPG) in cases where advance approval is required. As landlord the Association must continue to act as the primary contact point for its tenant, their representatives, OT, consultant and others. The Association is responsible for liaising with other parties and updating the tenant of progress at each stage.
It is good practice for tenants to be consulted and notified at key stages throughout the adaptation process. However the final responsibility for deciding what work is to be carried out lies with the Association. Associations should ensure that the tenant is informed of the full details of the proposed work and is kept informed of the timetable for completion. Tenant consultation should be conducted proportionately with regard to the type of work, the needs of the client and level of disturbance that might be anticipated.
It is good practice to:
- acknowledge to the tenant receipt of the OT recommendations;
- discuss the available options with the tenant/client, i.e. notify tenants that they could be considered for transfer to a more suitable property;
- notify the tenant/client and OT whether the Association will or will not undertake to provide some or all of the adaptations requested;
- ensure tenants/clients understand their right to appeal/complain and explain the appeals/complaints process where a request for adaptation is turned down
- advise the tenant/client as to the extent of the work to be undertaken through joint meetings with the tenant and OT, the use of sketches, plans and/or photographs of similar adaptations;
- advise tenants/clients of the timescale for the work and update them of any changes;
- notify the tenant/client of the name of the contractor instructed to carry out the work;
- arrange a pre-works meeting to discuss how work will proceed to
1) minimise disruption, and
2) agree any special arrangements required by the tenant/client while work is underway;
- arrange suitable appointments for contractors to gain entry.
In certain cases e.g. major adaptations such as extensions, it might be considered necessary for the tenant to be decanted for the duration of the work. Decisions regarding possible decanting should be made by the Association following liaison with the contractor, tenant, OT and other relevant health professionals, where appropriate. Note: Grant funding is not available from NIHE (DPG) for additional costs for decanting. Associations should discuss options with the OT and the Trust.
Adaptation Approval Responsibilities and Procedures
In the vast majority of cases Associations are responsible for the effective administration and approval of adaptations costing under £20,000 via their own internal policies and procedures. Associations should ensure that they have robust policies, procedures and control mechanisms in place that administer requests in line with DfC’s eligibility criteria and conditions for Grant.
NIHE (DPG) approvals
Responsibility for the approval and issue of any subsequent payment of Disability Adaptation Grant (DAG) rests with NIHE (Development Programme Group). As the organisation responsible for administration of the budget for adaptations, on receipt of a claim for payment NIHE (DPG) must satisfy itself that the claim is valid and complete and payment requirements have been met. This does not diminish the overarching responsibility which lies with the Housing Association to ensure that the claim contents and costs are appropriate and correct. Where the documentation provided by the Association clearly demonstrates this, payment requests can be processed efficiently within timescales. However, delays will occur where it is not clear from the information provided whether the requirements for payment of grant have been met.
In a minority of cases NIHE (DPG) advance approval is required before work commences.
Paragraph 2.27 provides further explanation of these advance approval requirements.
Advance Approval Process
NIHE (DPG) operates a formal process for advance approval of major or complex adaptations. Major adaptations are those works which exceed £20,000 costs.
The four situations where DfC has determined that advance approval is mandatory are detailed in Table 4 ‘Situations requiring advance approval’. These are:
- where provision of Environmental Control Systems (assistive technology) is being considered,
- where works compromise the Life time homes (LTH) status of a dwelling,
- where a deviation is proposed from DfC’s requirements for Procurement, and/or
- where major adaptation work costing £20,000 or over is proposed
The introduction of a formal process will provide a clear framework to guide associations which should ensure adequate information is provided to allow NIHE (DPG) to reach its decision in a timely manner. Proactive management by Association officers of the pre-submission stages is a key factor in this process.
Advance Approval submissions
The advance approval process takes the format of completion of a submission form. Form AA1 - Application for Advance Approval of Adaptation Proposal ), which is submitted with required supporting documentation by an Association seeking NIHE (DPG) approval of a proposal falling into the categories detailed in Table 4.
See Table 4: Situations requiring advance approval for guidance on when advance approval should be sought.
See Table 5: Advance Approval Procedures for more information on the advance approval documentation requirements.
After due consideration, form AA2 - Advance Approval of Adaptation Proposal , is issued by NIHE (DPG) as formal approval of the adaptation proposal as submitted by an association. The approval will be valid for a period of six months. The expiry date will be inserted by NIHE (DPG) on the approval form. Construction work must materially start on site before the six months period expires. Limited leeway to the approval expiry may be allowed at DPG’s discretion where unforeseen circumstances cause a slight delay to the commencement of wor
In the case of all advance approvals the Association is required to provide the adaptation as approved. In respect of major adaptations, any subsequent changes to the approved design and specifications for the adaptation works or significant cost variations must be considered and approved by NIHE (DPG) prior to implementation. Cost variations of plus or minus 10% from approved costs for major adaptations which may exceptionally occur after issue of the approval form will be deemed as significant.
Breakdown of Grant elements
Necessary and eligible works costs in respect of Adaptations will be eligible for 100% funding from the NIHE (DPG). This is to ensure that the normal rental income charged on the dwelling is not affected and remains at customary levels for the duration of the current tenancy.
Disability Adaptation Grant (DAG) is broken down into three elements:
- nett eligible works cost,
- any VAT applicable to the works cost, and
- on-cost applicable to the project.
(a) Nett eligible works cost
DAG can only be claimed on the net cost of achieving the ‘structural’ features identified as necessary for the person. As an example, in dwellings under construction any estimated savings due to omissions must be deducted from the adaptations works costs (In simple terms, the net cost is the additional cost that the adaptation incurs over and above the norm).
(b) Value Added Tax (VAT) applicable to the works cost
In undertaking adaptations for individual clients with physical disabilities, the supply of some goods and services may be zero-rated for VAT purposes. HM Revenue and Customs publication VAT Notice 701/7/2002 – VAT reliefs for disabled people, gives advice on the range of goods and services to disabled people (and charities providing facilities for disabled people) should be zero-rated. Many goods that are of benefit to people with particular disabilities may not qualify for relief because they are designed for wider use. In essence, both the goods or services and the recipient have to qualify before zero-rating can be applied.
Note: Reduced rate VAT is available for certain energy saving items e.g. electronic timers and thermostats for central heating units. Please see HMRC VAT Notice 708/6 (August 2006) for further details, also refer to HMRC VAT Notice 701/7 Part 6: VAT relief for disabled people (August 2002).
Grant-aid from NIHE (DPG) is only available on standard-rated VAT, where such VAT applies. Associations must not claim DAG for VAT exempt/zero-rated adaptation works.
Associations are responsible for verification of the VAT position for any adaptation work it carries out to its housing stock. Where it is not clear if zero-rated VAT, standard-rated VAT or both apply in a particular case, confirmation should be sought from the local VAT office before the application is submitted to the NIHE (DPG). Associations should not pay VAT in respect of eligible goods and services. Where goods or services are identified as being VAT exempt Associations must complete the relevant ‘eligibility declaration’ available on HMRC website (VAT Notice 701/7) and forward it to the supplier/service provider, retaining a copy for their file for inspection where required.
This matter is dealt with as a certification made by the Association, therefore, NIHE (DPG) will assume that the Association has clarified the VAT position and that the Association is correctly claiming any grant application for standard-rated VAT on an adaptation.
(c) Adaptation On-Costs
An on-cost percentage multiplier is applied to all adaptation works and VAT. Detail of the elements covered by on-costs, paid in respect of social housing development, are included in Calculating Grant Guide – Table 1: Breakdown of TCI Component Elements. These on-cost elements may also be used as a broad guide for adaptations, referring to the relevant/comparable on-cost items listed where applicable.
The detail of on-costs to be applied by Associations to its adaptation payment claims are shown in Table 6: On-Costs multiplier.
Post Practical Completion - Payment Timetable
Detailed procedures for making claims for payment of Disability Adaptation Grant are set out in Table 7: Requirements for claiming Disability Adaptation Grant .
Valid applications for Disability Association Grant (DAG) for adaptations will be paid in one Tranche after practical completion stage.
Key points are:
- practical completion (PC) of the adaptation work must have been reached and the PC date must be less than six months prior to date of receipt of a complete and valid payment claim;
Note. Incomplete or incorrect claims will not be regarded as meeting this deadline. Therefore it is essential that Associations have robust internal control procedures in place to ensure adaptation payment claims are complete and supporting information is satisfactory. It is strongly recommended that claims are made well within this deadline to allow adequate time for:
- any further information to be provided or amendments to the claim to be made by Associations, and
- NIHE (DPG) to verify that the claim is complete and valid.
- adaptation claims are accepted in batches of between ONE to a maximum of TEN individual payment items per claim
There are a number of circumstances where DfC's conditions for grant have not been met and grant is required to either be withheld or recovered.
Table 8: Circumstances where DAG will not be paid summarises those circumstances where grant will not be paid.
The notes in the table outline examples of when it may be appropriate for discretion to be afforded. See paragraph 2.32 HAG/DAG recovery for guidance on when grant may be recouped from the Association - either from the original scheme HAG funding or from DAG already paid to the Association.
Housing Association Grant or Disability Adaptation Grant Recovery
The decision whether or not to recover or recoup Housing Association Grant (HAG) or Disability Adaptation Grant (DAG) may be required for a number of reasons and at different stages in the adaptation process. This is generally determined by circumstances of an individual case.
HAG/DAG recovery would not generally be required where advance approval for a scheme change has been given where the amendment is seen as wholly reasonable and essential. However, it may be deemed appropriate for partial or full HAG recovery where the proposed change has a substantial impact on the scheme as originally approved. This is at the discretion of the decision-making organisation to determine what is reasonable and acceptable in the circumstances.
- NIHE (DPG) are responsible for making the decision whether HAG or DAG recovery is appropriate up to the point where issues with the adaptation are identified at advance approval or at payment claim stages.
- DfC may decide that recovery of grant is appropriate at any stage in the Audit and inspection process but in particular are responsible for making that decision when issues with the adaptation are identified post-payment stage.
Although, NIHE (DPG) will be involved in terms of making a recommendation and/or providing any required information to DfC and, where recoupment is deemed appropriate by DfC, in managing the actual recovery process
The most common issues prompting consideration of recovery of HAG/DAG funding are:
- where VFM has not been achieved;
- advance approval has not been obtained or has been refused and/or the original Scheme Approval/adaptation has been compromised; and
- where the adaptation is ‘not fit for purpose’
Making the Grant Claim
Form AW1 - Application and Approval for Payment of Disability Adaptation Grant should be completed by the Association and submitted along with all required supporting documentation. The form has a supplementary property schedule allowing between one to a maximum of 10 adaptation payments to be combined by the Association into one payment claim. All sections on the claim form must be satisfactorily completed and all required supporting documentation submitted and of a reasonable standard for a claim to be deemed complete and valid.
Reporting & Regulation
Associations are required to submit four returns each year when requested by NIHE (DPG). The returns provide details of all adaptations planned or, adaptations that have been completed but where grant has yet to be claimed. Adaptation payment claims that have already been submitted to DPG but not yet paid or not rejected must not be included in the Association’s figures. It is imperative that this return is completed fully, accurately and promptly. Failure to advise NIHE (DPG) of unclaimed adaptations may result in insufficient funds being available to meet a subsequent claim.
Associations are asked to ensure that adaptation claims are submitted in a timely manner within the required submission deadline.
Regulation and Inspection
As part of its regulation and inspection role DfC will check the validity and accuracy of the Certification assurances provided by the Association as part of the conditions for Grant.
The main purpose will be to verify that all the DfC’s requirements and conditions have been met, and that the Association has properly exercised its responsibilities set out in the relevant guidance and conditions for receipt of Disability Adaptation Grant (DAG). This does not diminish the overall responsibility of the Association to ensure that the costs of any claim for Grant are appropriate and have been properly incurred.
Examples of best practice in managing adaptations to its property include that:
- the Association has a (formally adopted) policy and procedural document that sets out the organisation’s approach to the provision of adaptations to its housing stock;
- the Association’s adaptation policy and procedures set out the priority that should be attached to undertaking this type of work;
- the Association has appointed a member of staff to oversee all adaptations and provides a ‘contact point’ for queries and progress;
- the Association has internal systems in place to record/action requests for adaptations;
- the Association has established performance/time targets for the process, see Table 9 Performance Targets for details of adaptation priority completion targets.
- on completion of the works, the Association has arranged for the client, carer and/or family to be instructed on the safe use/minor maintenance and/or call-out procedures in the event of problems with the adaptation (if relevant);
- after completion the Association has undertaken a post-completion inspection by a suitably qualified and competent person and a customer satisfaction survey on whether the adaptation meets the agreed needs of the client; the way the work was carried out, and satisfaction with the completed work;
- the Association’s appropriate officer has been made aware of any regular or specialised maintenance required by the adaptation.
- the Association’s policy and procedures include robust quality control mechanisms to ensure requirements are adhered to and consistency of approach.
N.B. Associations are expected to follow best practice unless they can demonstrate good reason otherwise.
Good practice for RSLs in identifying need, liaising with statutory authorities and carrying out works of adaptation is set out in a good practice guide published by the Housing Corporation:
‘Carrying out Adaptations, A good practice guide for registered social landlords’ by Nigel Appleton and Professor Philip Leather, 1998.
‘Needs First: a good practice guide for RSLs to prioritising tenants' needs for adaptations’ HoDis 2001. (National Disabled Persons Housing Service). Habinteg in partnership with the Papworth Trust are joint publishers of HoDis publications.
These publications, and any others referred to in this guidance, are listed as useful references. Associations are responsible for ensuring that the most up-to-date version is consulted where necessary.
Adaptation Procurement requirements
Appointment of Consultants
For every adaptation with works costs exceeding £10,000 the association must commission or themselves employ at least one suitably qualified, experienced and professionally indemnified technical consultant/member of staff (the Association must ensure that its insurances indemnify its employees appropriately).
The appointment of a consultant or use of a suitably qualified person employed by the Association, as specified above, will also be required if the Association decides to operate a ‘priced schedule’ or similar type of contract* for all or most of its adaptations. The appointment of consultants must be in accordance with the Procurement Requirements for Housing Associations contained in Procurement.
Note: *The type of contract used is normally a form of Measured Term Contract (MTC) where quantified schedules of work have been the subject of competitive tendering and fully reflect the extent and costs of typical adaptation works. Contract rates should take into consideration expected economies deriving from the scale of the procurement approach. Such contracts should be let for a period of up to 3-years and be on the basis of best value for money. The total contract period must not exceed FIVE years.
Association must ensure that account is taken of LTH features in agreeing rates/prices for adaptation works. For example the reduced costs in providing a ground floor shower in a LTH dwelling must be reflected in the schedule of rates/tender price. Any consultant employed on the Association’s behalf should be briefed on this requirement.
More in-depth guidance is available in Procurement and CPD Procurement [external link] ; however a summary of thresholds is set out in Table 10: Procurement threshold guidance. Associations should aim to reduce the time and need for tendering each individual adaptation scheme, by using longer-term, competitively tendered, contracts that would cover the Association’s requirements for a number of years and also include ‘Partnering’ which may be particularly appropriate for adaptation works.