Disabled people feeling 'trapped' inside unsuitable homes, report warns

Friday, May 11, 2018

Disabled people are being trapped inside their homes because of a "chronic" shortage of suitable housing, a new report warns.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said 365,000 disabled people have reported that their homes are not suitable for their needs.

The Government was urged to take action to make all new houses adaptable and accessible, and to review the way building standards are enforced.

An 18-month review into the problem by the ECHR found that many local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales have not collected data or planned for the future, even though the number of disabled people is increasing.

Those whose homes meet their accessibility requirements reported improved health and wellbeing, and better prospects for employment and study, creating "significant" savings to the public purse, reducing social care costs for local authorities and for the NHS, said the commission.

The review revealed "alarming" concerns that disabled people's right to independent living was being restricted by unsuitable and unsafe housing.

One respondent said: "I have not been outside since 2011, except for essential hospital stays. My flat is on the second floor, with no lift; it is not wheelchair-accessible, and although I have and need a power wheelchair, I cannot even use it indoors, as the flat is not adapted. I have been both horizontally bound and housebound for six years."

Another explained how the restrictions impacted family life: "I can't access the whole house, including my children's room. I can't use my wheelchair around the house, so I get exhausted very quickly just getting from the stairs to my chair or the kitchen - around three metres. This cuts down the amount of interaction I can have with my family, and also means that I need a lot more help with everything than I would if my house was accessible."

Susan Johnson, spokesperson for the EHRC, told talkRADIO: "The situation is only going to get worse; the population ages, we’ve got more disabled people seeking appropriate, accessible and adaptable housing, but there isn’t the supply to service that need.”

“Some of the lived experiences that we cover in the report of disabled people themselves are trapped in their homes, they’ve needed to be carried from room-to-room, they’ve not been able to go outside, and some of them haven’t been able to engage in leisure activities or employment.”

“Things that the rest of population take for granted are denied for people who are living in these properties, which are just unsuitable for their needs.

“1 in 3 private rented sector are living in unsuitable accommodation and 1 in 5 in the social housing sector. The impact this has on these people is a loss of dignity, their mental well-being and just the ability to go and socialist, all of that is adding a huge stress and strain on disabled people.

“But potentially, it's adding costs to the health system, and on top of that adding stress and costs to the social care system if they’re falling in their homes because they can’t get around.”