25th November 2011
As many commentators have pointed out, much of the content of the Housing Strategy has been talked about before in the Comprehensive Spending review and other key documents. By publishing it together under the title Laying the Foundations: A housing strategy for England the government shows their overall approach and priorities. Habinteg Chief Executive, Paul Gamble gives his views:
“It’s a shame that the needs of disabled people are mentioned so few times in the Housing Strategy. In fact we were unable to find a single use of the word ‘wheelchair’. Given the impact that using a wheelchair has on a person’s housing requirements this feels like a glaring omission. We know that over 78,000 households in England are in need of appropriate, accessible housing so we would like to see a target set for some of the 16000 new homes mentioned in the strategy to be built to wheelchair accessible standards.
Of course adaptations remain an important factor in enabling disabled people of all ages to maintain their independence. So the increased allocation of Disabled Facilities Grant funding planned for the next few years is of course welcome, but Local Authorities don’t have to ring fence this money, so there’s no indication of how much will reach the people who need to make adjustments to their homes.
We’re also really concerned that the needs of disabled people, and wheelchair users in particular, aren’t explicitly mentioned in relation to the Home Swap scheme. Finding work offers is hard enough for disabled people but to be further disadvantaged by the need to secure accessible housing can severely limit opportunities to take up jobs when they do arise.
In social housing a shockingly low number of wheelchair accessible homes are let to wheelchair users. This isn’t because of lack of demand – far from it when so many are in need of accessible housing. We think much of it is down to the way that vacant properties are matched to prospective tenants. We’re bringing out a Habinteg report next week (1/12/11) recommending some ways to make this process much more efficient – so we hope that Home Swap will take a look at our findings and use them to make sure that the new scheme is able to meet the needs of all tenants who want to relocate.
We’re pleased to see the Lifetime Homes Standard mentioned in relation to new homes. But as champions of the Standard, we think that restricting its use to a variable percentage of new homes will limit its positive impact, not only on individual people looking for new housing but for entire communities and families. If we continue to build barriers into the fabric of our communities we’ll only ever achieve partial equality and integration for disabled people.”