Disabled people face ‘hidden crisis’ in accessible housing
Summary: Disabled people have been left “demoralised and frustrated” by the housing system and face a “chronic shortage” of accessible homes, according to a new report by the equality and human rights watchdog.
More than 350,000 disabled people in England have unmet housing needs, with one-third of those in rented accommodation living in unsuitable properties, says the report.
There are also about 17,000 wheelchair-users in Scotland with unmet housing needs, while there is “a severe shortage” of accessible and wheelchair-accessible housing in Wales.
Despite this, fewer than one in four local authorities (22 per cent) have an accessible housing register, while only 28 per cent have a target for accessible housing.
The report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) follows an 18-month formal inquiry and calls on the government to draw up a national strategy to ensure an adequate supply of new homes built to inclusive design standards.
The report – Housing and disabled people: Britain’s hidden crisis – also says there is “unacceptable bureaucracy and delay” in the system of installing home adaptations.
EHRC published separate reports on the crisis in housing for disabled people in both Scotland and Wales.
The report on Britain warns of “insufficient attention given to those currently in residential care who wish to live independently and could do so with the right support”.
And it says that provision of advice, support and advocacy is “patchy”, with disabled people reporting that they have nowhere to turn when in crisis or when their housing is unsuitable, while navigating the complex systems for allocating housing and securing adaptations is “stressful and challenging”.
It concludes: “Progress to ensure that disabled people have accessible homes that support their right to independent living is unlikely to be made unless disabled people are actively engaged in shaping housing policy and practice.”
And it adds: “The human and economic costs of inaccessible housing can be avoided if disabled people’s requirements are identified and built into planning and delivery of new housing supply.”
The inquiry heard accounts of disabled people eating, sleeping and bathing in one room, and of having to be carried around their inaccessible homes by relatives.
One disabled person who contributed to the inquiry said they had not been outside their second-floor flat since 2011 – apart from essential hospital trips – because there was no lift and the flat was not wheelchair-accessible.
A second respondent to the inquiry’s call for evidence described how they were unable to access their children’s room and other parts of the house and could not use their wheelchair because their home was so inaccessible.
And one disabled respondent said: “I have been on my local authority [housing]list for seven years, but there has never been a suitable property available in that time.
“So for the past two years I have been reduced to having my hair washed in a bowl while sat on my toilet.”
The report says that while more than two-thirds of local authorities say that developers do not always comply with accessibility requirements, only seven local authorities (three per cent) have taken action against a developer in the last three years.
In addition to the demand for a national strategy, the report calls on the UK government to produce mandatory planning guidance for local authorities on assessing need and delivering accessible and adaptable housing, and wheelchair-accessible housing.
And it says the government should amend building regulations so that the optional M4(2) accessibility standard – a series of design criteria intended to make homes more easily adaptable for lifetime use – is instead a mandatory minimum standard for all new housing.
Government figures show this would increase construction costs by just £1,100 per home.
It also says the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments should all require local authorities to ensure a minimum of 10 per cent of new-build homes are built to higher wheelchair-accessible standards.
And it says the three governments should provide funding to disabled people’s organisations and advice agencies so they can increase provision of independent advice and information on housing.
The report welcomes the UK government’s decision to increase funding for disabled facilities grants (DFGs) from £220 million in 2015-16 to £505 million in 2019-20 and incorporate the funding into a joint health and social care budget, the Better Care Fund, with the aim of doubling the number of grants to 85,000 by 2020.
DFGs provide funding to make disabled people’s homes more accessible, for example by widening doorways, installing ramps or providing a downstairs bathroom.
But the report adds: “The increase in funding is an important step, but we heard evidence that the slow and cumbersome nature of the DFG process often leads to people spending extended periods in hospital beyond their discharge date or being discharged into unsuitable accommodation.”
EHRC says its findings “raise alarming concerns that disabled people’s right to independent living is being heavily restricted by unsuitable and unsafe housing”.
The findings mirror those of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD), which highlighted concerns last August about possible breaches in Britain of both article nine (on accessibility) and article 19 (on independent living) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
CRPD warned that austerity measures had “hindered the advancement of accessibility” and raised concerns about “the reduction in social protection schemes related to housing, household income and budgets for independent living”.
Kamran Mallick, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “This research shows some of the fundamental issues we face on a day-to-day basis.
“Appropriate housing is key to independent living and creating choice and control for disabled people.
“But it’s also better for the tax payer. Better housing options mean disabled people are less likely to seek support from hard-pressed health and social care providers.
“The same is true if we develop ways to ensure the swift provision of aids and adaptations when people become disabled.
“We need clear standards for developers and designers so we begin to see the establishment of more lifetime homes; and better policing and support for private landlords, who have a huge slice of the rental market.”
Heather Fisken, manager of Independent Living in Scotland, which is part of Inclusion Scotland, said: “This is indeed a hidden crisis. Disabled people living in unsuitable housing are denied their human rights to participate in and contribute to their communities.
“Living in inaccessible housing can mean not getting outside at all or only rarely, or even being forced to move to a care home.
“The EHRC’s recommendations echo Inclusion Scotland’s own report Our Place, Our Space which called on Scottish government to introduce a national target for new build houses built to wheelchair accessible standards, and for a new accessible housing design standard.
“Without urgent policy change and investment, the situation is set to get worse as the population ages and housing stocks depreciate.”
Disability Wales also welcomed the reports and called for “urgent action”.
A Disability Wales spokesperson said: “There are far too many examples where disabled people are unable to move around their own home due to its inaccessibility.
“This is having a huge impact on disabled people’s health and well-being, their ability to engage in community life and access employment.
“Having a suitable place to live is a basic need and a human right.”
The EHRC reports come less than two months after the government rejected a series of recommendations made by the Commons women and equalities committee, following its inquiry on disability and the built environment.
Maria Miller, the Tory MP who chairs that committee, said the government’s decision to reject those recommendations had left disabled people to face “unacceptable barriers to independent living, often making them feel isolated and forgotten”.
She said: “I welcome the findings of this inquiry and hope that it will act as another much-needed wake up call for ministers.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government said: “We realise many disabled people can face a variety of obstacles in their daily lives, but we’re clear that their homes should not be one of these.
“That’s why we’re providing councils with almost £1 billion over the next two years to adapt properties for disabled people so they can live independently and safely.
“Our planning rules make clear councils must take the needs of elderly and disabled people into account when planning new homes in their area.”
Source: Disability News Service
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- Covid: Lockdown 'turned back the clock' for disabled shoppers
- BBC set for month-long season to mark 25th anniversary of Disability Discrimination Act
- People with disabilities suffer 'often shocking' violence, abuse and neglect – report
- Disabled veterans being let down by benefits system – Royal British Legion
- Song for Bristol boy Oscar Cridge's surgery enters charts
- UK designer's wheelchair innovation wins $1m Toyota prize
- Government’s shielding decision ‘will have chilling impact on disabled workers’
- Mental health: More help for new and expectant mothers in England
- Covid causing huge rise in Disability
- English councils handing huge extra care bills to disabled and mentally ill adults
- ‘Direct discrimination’: extremely vulnerable fans barred from Carabao Cup final
- New BSL co-operative ‘could transform the future of interpreting’
- Equality Act threat over long-awaited rail access app
- Pupils in England ‘waiting up to five years for special needs plan’
- Gene therapy breakthrough helps blind man regain some vision - after 40 years
- Winterbourne View: Group says annual checks can lengthen life
- Ministers pledge to publish their first ‘robust’ rail access strategy
- Nottingham woman trains pet as first Dalmatian support dog
- New Alzheimer's drug that targets cause rather than symptoms approved by US regulator
- Laughing gas may treat depression, small study suggests
- Benefits claimants suffering under end-of-life DWP rule
- Self-harm warning signs can appear decade earlier
- Government finally faces court hearing over failure to provide BSL interpreters
- Social care: Ministers urged to 'act now' on funding reform
- 'Space Is for Everyone': Europe's Space Agency to Hire First Disabled Astronaut
- Tokyo Paralympics: Most of Channel 4's TV hosts will be disabled
- Disabled women decide ‘enough is enough’ and launch protest over pandemic deaths
- DWP policy of cold-calling disabled people over benefit claims to end
- Families with disabled children 'face blame culture' when seeking help
- 'Transformative' disability plan to be unveiled
- A third of middle-aged UK adults have at least two chronic health issues – study
- Experts predict that dementia cases around the world will TRIPLE to 152.8 million by 2050 due to sedentary lifestyles and poor diet
- Paralysed woman to swim English Channel
- New device could help visually impaired avoid obstacles, research suggests
- BBC warned over ‘wildly irresponsible’ documentary on social media ‘fakery’ allegations
- WeThe15: 'Game-changer' plan for 1.2bn disabled people
- UK health standards body delays new ME guidance in therapy row
- ‘His Dark Materials,’ ‘The Eddy’ Writer Jack Thorne: “TV Has Failed Disabled People”
- Autism: University of Cambridge launch UK's largest ever study
- ‘A brilliant role model’: CBeebies hires first presenter with Down’s syndrome
- Seven out of 10 win benefits challenges at tribunal
- Coming off anti-depressants may not cause relapse - study
- Is FLATULENCE a sign you've got the blues? Depressed people are more likely to break wind, feel bloated and suffer other stomach troubles, study says
- Social media abuse: Goalkeeper Rhys Porter, 13, made honorary member of Fulham squad
- Spending review and budget come up nearly empty on disability strategy funding
- Full list of medical conditions drivers must declare or face £1,000 fine
- Thousands to be spared strokes as life-saving drug rolled out to 610,000 more patients
- Thousands of Brits with HIV to be offered new long-acting treatment
- People with mild depression should be prescribed exercise before antidepressants
- Liam Fox: MP's law on Down's care needs moves step closer
- Pancreatic cancer: How many times do you poo a day? The number that could indicate cancer
- Untrained blind student lands starring role in Netflix second world war epic
- Magic mushrooms are safe to treat mental health conditions, first human trial finds
- Bionic eye implant enables blind UK woman to detect visual signals
- British Sign Language to become recognised language in the UK
- 'See the person, not the disability' says Welsh campaigner who has been awarded MBE
- Fans aim to help Leicester Comedy Festival improve disabled access
- ‘There’s a truth to it’: RSC casts disabled actor as Richard III
- Coffey’s ‘embarrassing’ performance before MPs as she ‘forgets’ key disability policies
- Report DWP refused to publish admits disabled benefit claimants can’t afford food
- Millions in England face ‘second pandemic’ of mental health issues
- Student loan ban will hit dyslexic people hard, says Benjamin Zephaniah
- More support needed for GPs to treat eating disorders
- Bridlington comedian Rosie Jones to host new Channel 4 cooking and chat show Dine Hard