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Councils ‘failing to deliver disabled-friendly homes’

Up to 300,000 disabled people will be left on housing waiting lists this winter, with many of them having to ‘make do’ in accommodation that does not meet their needs, a new report has revealed. 

The ‘No Place Like Home’ study by Leonard Cheshire Disability found that 84% of councils have ‘no information’ about wheelchair-accessible housing. This, according to the charity, is leaving disabled people on housing waiting lists living in severe discomfort. 

Based on responses from 222 English and Wales housing authorities, the charity found that a third of councils (32%) either did not mention disability at all in their housing plan, or mentioned it only in passing. It also revealed that, of the councils with a housing plan in place, less than 17% have set out plans to build disabled-friendly homes in 2015 – offering little hope to the thousands of disabled people stuck in “desperate situations”. 

But the Local Government Association said councils were doing what they could amid huge demand. “Councils need to be able to build and provide more social housing as well as the infrastructure we need,” a spokesman said. “They desperately want to build new homes and do more to support accessible and adaptable homes, but are hampered in work to build new homes by centrally-set Treasury restrictions on investment in housing.” 

Leonard Cheshire Disability has urged the government to make it mandatory for developers to include disabled-friendly homes in their plans, to make ‘Lifetime Homes’ the minimum standard for all new-builds, and commit to building 10% of new homes as fully wheelchair accessible by 2020. 

It also wants local government to create local policies for Lifetime Homes to be a standard requirement and for 10% of homes in large developments to be wheelchair accessible. On top of this, there are calls for every local authority to operate an accessible housing register or comparable system. 

Clare Pelham, chief executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: “While most of us will spend Christmas Day visiting friends and family and sharing food with our loved ones, thousands of disabled people will be unable to get in the door to visit the people they love. 

“Councillors need to show some understanding about what this feels like — and take steps to ensure houses in their area are suitable for all the people who live there, including disabled people. And the national government needs to insist that all housing developers make future homes disabled-friendly. It’s the very least they can do as a Christmas present for disabled people.” 

In support of the Home Truths campaign, David Pearson, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services (ADASS), added that it is “crucial” that all councils consider the impact of inappropriate housing on people’s need for care, “as some are starting to do”. 

“With the immense pressure on budgets caused by reduced resources and increasing needs every local area needs clear plans for making housing more appropriate. It is better for people and the public purse,” he added. 

Communities minister Stephen Williams MP said councils should plan for a mix of housing based on the community’s needs. He added that the government is introducing new building regulations to help ensure many more disabled-friendly homes are built to high standards of accessibility. “This includes the first ever building regulation for fully wheelchair accessible housing, along with an intermediate standard similar to lifetime homes,” said Williams.

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