Sophie leaving her home in Bath

Urgent action needed on housing for disabled people

by Sue Adams, Chief Executive of Care and Repair

Published: 11 May 2018

At our housing charity, Care and Repair, we advocate for the importance of safe, secure and adapted homes for disabled people, to maximise independence, dignity and quality of life. So we were very pleased to hear that the Equality and Human Rights Commission were planning an inquiry into housing for disabled people.

With the publication of the resulting report we certainly welcome the findings and recommendations.

However, I can't help wondering how many more reports are needed before the message gets through to decision makers that building all new homes to be accessible and adaptable is absolutely fundamental to creating an inclusive society and that this will not happen without national regulations to set minimum standards.

The impact on the lives of disabled people condemned to living in unsuitable homes seems to be hard to grasp for anyone who has never faced such problems. So many things that are simply taken for granted – like using the bathroom, being able to go to bed in a bedroom, even just getting through the front door – are made impossible for far too many disabled people by inadequate housing.

Very often lives can be transformed by a relatively small adaptation – a level shower, a ramp, a hoist, wider doorways, level thresholds.

The reports of the misery caused by long delays in adapting homes are additionally frustrating when contrasted with places where home adaptations help is being delivered really well. Many pioneer areas are now fast tracking more straight forward adaptations, involving disabled people in decision making, simplifying the grants processes, as well as contracting quality builders and supervising work to ensure high standards.

Unfortunately, what we currently have is a postcode lottery when it comes to disabled people being able to get their homes adapted. 

The growing problem of adaptations in the private rented sector is rightly highlighted in the report. There are very fundamental problems with short term tenancies and home adaptation grants that will need to be tackled head on, if we are to improve the lives of young people who so often rely on privately rented accommodation.

The government commissioned a review of the Disabled Facilities Grants provision which is currently underway and would do well to consider the issues and recommendations highlighted by the Commission’s report.

Sue Adams is the Chief Executive of Care and Repair England, a national charity established in 1986 to improve the housing and living conditions of older and disabled people.