1st December 2011
With only 22% of wheelchair standard properties in England let to wheelchair user households(1), Habinteg, the disability housing specialists, are calling for action to improve the use of much needed wheelchair standard properties.
In a new report Space to Move: Making efficient use of homes for wheelchair users, Habinteg looks at the issue in London to investigate the reasons for what it argues is an avoidable waste of resources. The report gathers evidence from a cross-section of London housing associations, local authority allocations departments and housing applicants themselves. Whilst the capital does better than average with one out of every three purpose designed wheelchair standard properties allocated to a wheelchair user household.(1) Habinteg claims that vacant wheelchair accessible properties should be let to wheelchair users.
Space to Move found that some London boroughs are taking positive steps to get allocations right (two thirds of those participating in the research have agreed to adopt the London Accessible Housing Register classifications). However too much evidence points to wheelchair user households stuck in unsuitable accommodation that limits their independence.
Researchers found several contributing factors: a shortage of detailed, accurate information about properties and their locations; lack of support and advice to disabled housing applicants; applicants rejecting properties that do not meet their needs or expectations; and the pressure on housing providers to re-let void property quickly and maintain rental income.
Habinteg’s previous report on housing need among wheelchair users, Mind the Step, estimated a figure of 12,517 wheelchair user households with unmet housing need in London in 2010(2).
Paul Gamble, Chief Executive at Habinteg, said:
“The fact that more than three quarters of our affordable wheelchair accessible homes are going to families who don’t need the facilities they offer represents a huge waste of precious resources. It’s made worse because we know that thousands of wheelchair users and their families are living in accommodation that places a daily strain on their quality of life. All allocations policies need to recognise wheelchair users and the continuing challenges they face. It’s extremely worrying to think that so little is known by some housing providers about the homes that they have on their books. They should be getting to grips with this and offering practical support to housing applicants. We need a firm commitment to renting vacant wheelchair standard properties to wheelchair users.”
Habinteg is now calling on all local authorities and housing providers in England to ensure that vacant wheelchair accessible properties are let to a wheelchair user households. Space to Move recommends that social landlords first identify the causes of inefficiencies at their local level, then create a systematic plan for improvement.
Habinteg’s national recommendations focus on four key themes:
• Make it a priority: All housing, policy, allocations and support agencies should prioritise efficient allocation of wheelchair properties to wheelchair users;
• Know your housing stock: housing providers should capture more detail about their properties, their accessibility and the accessibility of the area they’re in;
• Know your applicants: having basic information about applicants such as the size and age of the family can make the process more personalised and avoid wasted time; for example where a child is settled at school a move out of area could mean an otherwise suitable home would be turned down;
• Communicate better: ensuring that housing applicants can access detailed, relevant information about vacant homes is critical as is a broader view of the agencies that can be involved in making a suitable match. Health, social care and the voluntary sector all have potential roles to play in ensuring that wheelchair users get to hear about and apply for suitable homes as they become available.
Liz Sayce OBE, Chief Executive of Radar, said:
“Radar strongly welcomes Habinteg’s ‘Space to Move’ report which pinpoints the inefficiencies in the allocation of social housing and provides practical suggestions for improvement. These should require little effort to implement but would reduce waste in the system and alleviate the housing shortage for wheelchair users and their families.
Keeping wheelchair users in unsuitable housing is costly as they are likely to need more care and adaptations and to have greater health problems. Increasing access to suitable housing would enable disabled people to move in order to pursue work or education opportunities, or allow them to live nearer family and friends for greater security and support. We call on councils and housing associations to set up Accessible Housing Registers so they can give disabled people with specific housing needs first call on the most suitable properties.”
Copies of the report can be ordered from the publications section on the Habinteg website, www.habinteg.org.uk.
(1) CORE data 2008/2009 reported in Mind the Step (Habinteg 2010)
(2) 2007/8 Survey of English Housing data used in Mind the Step, (Habinteg 2010)
Notes to editors:
For further information or interviews please contact Alexandra Perry, Senior Communications Officer, Habinteg Housing Association on 0207 822 8729 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Habinteg is a leading national provider of affordable accessible homes and support services. We champion inclusion by providing sustainable neighbourhoods of Lifetime Homes and wheelchair standard properties for disabled and non-disabled people to share and enjoy. We use our expertise to challenge negative social attitudes, promote the rights of disabled people and improve accessibility standards within housing.
Since 1970, our thoughtful designs and on-site support have enabled tenants to achieve and sustain independent living. Habinteg has over 3300 homes across 81 local authorities. One in three of our properties are designed specifically for wheelchair users, and the majority of our general needs homes have been built to an accessible or Lifetime Homes Standard.