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23.04.15

Councils failing to make homes safe for disabled people

Councils are failing to adapt the homes of disabled people within the one year legal limit, a new report from the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability has found.

The report, ‘The Long Wait for a Home’, shows that nearly two thirds (62%) of councils failed to carry out necessary adaptations on homes within the legal one year time limit, and 44% of councils are making disabled people wait more than two years for the work to be carried out.

The charity’s findings are based on Freedom of Information requests from 245 housing authorities.

Demand for home adaptations has risen 6% since 2011-12, while the number of Disabled Facilities Grants (DFG) paid has gone down by 3% in the same period. According to the charity’s figures each year 2,500 disabled people wait over one year to get funding to make their homes accessible.

The charity says that inaccessible housing can lead to physical injuries, mental health problems and increases the demand for social care for people who need help to wash and cook due to constraints in their home. It argues that it is cost effective and relatively cheap for councils to adapt homes to make them accessible, and to build more disabled-friendly housing, compared to the cost of paying for social care.

A survey carried out by Leonard Cheshire Disability, in partnership with the College of Occupational Therapists, found that 96% of occupational therapists agreed that home adaptations reduce the need for social care. 

A spokesman for the Local Government Association said: “Councils work hard to ensure that disabled people have the right equipment and support in their homes so that they can live as independently as possible.

“Anyone who needs assistance can contact their local council to find out what they are entitled to.”

A case study in the report is Adam Lotun, 51, a wheelchair user who became disabled following an accident at work. He has waited over ten years for a home which is safe for him to live in. This is despite being moved into a housing association home which he was told could be easily adapted to meet his needs.

Lotun was initially told he would receive DFG funding for a wet-room and kitchen extension so he could use them both in his wheelchair. However, the council later refused the work, saying he would have to pay up to £100,000 out of his own pocket.

He said: “I have to leave my wheelchair outside and get around the house by holding on to furniture and using a stick, or crawling to get up the stairs. I don’t have the money to pay for a stair lift so wash in my kitchen sink, and use a bucket to go to the loo downstairs. I have been trapped without a disabled-friendly home for ten years, and all I want is somewhere I can live independently with my family.”

Andy Cole, campaigns director at Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: “Each year 2,500 disabled people have to wait over one year to get adaptations to make their homes accessible, so it is shocking that while demand for this essential work is going up, funding for the programme is falling. This will mean even more disabled people will be left stuck in homes that are damaging to their health, and their independence.

“The effects of poor housing cause stress and depression as well as physical injuries which put a huge strain on our health and social care services. All political parties must address this housing crisis and ensure the funding is put in place for local councils to resolve this.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

Maria   13/04/2016 at 20:58

Our council has frozen their lists for DFG, last year in fact, and now have such a long waiting list that they are refusing even to take applications despite the relevant Act stating that councils can not refuse to accept applications for consideration.

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