Armstrong supports NI Audit Office focus on Disabled Facilities Grant

The Northern Ireland Audit Office is set to focus on the Disabled Facilities Grant operated by the Housing Executive, Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has said, after she raised the issue with the Controller and Auditor General.

The MLA for Strangford took action following a series of concerns raised by recipients of the grant and contacts with the Housing Executive.

She said: “I am pleased the NI Audit Office will focus on the Disabled Facilities Grant operated by the Housing Executive. My concerns have been that siblings with disabilities are not treated fairly in that the needs of individual people with disabilities are not being met because of a failure of clear policy and processes within the Housing Executive.

“I am concerned at how grants are paid to contractors as too often additional costs are added to take the total grant allocation to just under the upper limit. There is no complaints process and no clear operational chart defining for recipients who they can raise concerns with.

“While the Housing Executive provides a select list of builders, they do not manage or monitor that list to ensure contractors are appropriately checked before entering the home of a person with disabilities and people who are vulnerable. Indeed I have evidence of a number of constituents who have been asked for cash payments and additional payments for work that is unnecessary.

“The Housing Executive’s internal ‘price list’ for works has not been updated or reviewed in line with market costs. This means more people with disabilities have to contribute money – money they cannot afford – putting themselves in debt, in order to avail of a grant to make living at home possible. It is rare for contractor’s quotes to be accepted by the Housing Executive as the latter is using a price list that is not relevant to market costs.

“The Disabled Facilities Grant is part of the Housing Executive’s maintenance grant programme. This part of the Housing Executive has not had a ‘clean bill of health’ from the NI Audit office for some years. It’s therefore disappointing that the NI Audit Office has to focus on this aspect of the Housing Executive – issues should have been resolved before.

“It’s time the Housing Executive Board asks its management to complete a root and branch review of the Disabled Facilities Grant process and to speak to recipients to understand why the system is not operating as well as it should – too many issues and no formal complaints system.”

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