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We must do better for our disabled population

By Kerry Thompson, Habinteg tenant and Insight group member

Have you ever looked around at your home and thought I really hate living here? Not because of the decor or the area that you live, but because you’re stuck in one room, unable to access anywhere else in your home. This one room acts as your living room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom.

The lack of accessible homes in the UK means many disabled people and their families are living in care homes or unsuitable properties. Back in 2018, I wrote about the new ‘housing crisis’. But I soon realised that this wasn’t a new concept to the disabled community. We have been fighting the Government and councils for years screaming that there has been an issue way before it was being reported. 

Going in and out of your home safely is one of the simple things that many people take for granted, yet disabled people are living in homes that are not designed for anyone with access needs. How are we still living in a world where access to your own home is a problem? I’m lucky enough to have an accessible house provided by Habinteg that’s my forever home. It’s made a huge difference in my life as I’m able to have my independence. But with the population aging drastically and rates of disability increasing, it’s not right that less than a quarter of homes built outside of London by 2030 will be suitable for older and disabled people.

In July of this year I virtually met Housing Minister, Rt. Hon Chris Pincher MP, to discuss the lack of accessible housing in the UK. Alongside us was Habinteg’s CEO, Sheron Carter, Director of Strategy and External Affairs, Nic Bungay and Anna Dixon, CEO of Centre for Ageing Better representing the Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) coalition. The meeting was convened by Liz Twist MP.

I shared my first-hand experience of living in both an inaccessible and accessible home. I urged the Minister to launch the public consultation on accessible housing standards that was promised by Theresa May before she left her post at number 10 more than one year ago. This is after an Insight Report was published by Habinteg last year that revealed just 1% of homes to be built outside London by 2030 are set to be wheelchair accessible properties. The Minister also mentioned that the disability strategy being led by the cabinet office will include accessible housing. 

On 8th September Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, announced the consultation document and plans to make all new homes meet ‘lifetime’ standards. The MHCLG (Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government) is asking for industry and the public’s views on changing building regulations to ensure all developments must meet the Category 2 standard for accessibility – the accessible, adaptable standard broadly equivalent to the old “Lifetime Homes” standard.

Those whose homes do meet their accessibility needs have reported improved health and wellbeing. However, an accessible home is not only beneficial to the people living in it. Just having the right adaptations to the home can create significant savings to the public purse, reducing social care costs for local authorities and health costs for the NHS.

It’s not a luxury to live in a suitable home and I believe everyone, old and young, disabled and non-disabled, deserves to have somewhere to live where they can feel at home. Being a disabled person means you’ll constantly face mental and physical challenges so why not make the few changes to new builds that make it easier for people and families with a disability.

 

 

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