Research suggests thousands of disabled people are living in unsuitable accommodation

Leonard Cheshire Disability, a UK charity that supports disabled people, has published disturbing research showing that thousands of disabled people are living in completely unsuitable housing.

People living with disabilities, including people who have experienced life-changing spinal injuries, or brain injuries, will often need adapted accommodation and specialist equipment to help with their everyday activities.

The charity’s research, The Long Wait for a Home, reveals a disturbing picture for thousands of disabled people in the UK who are living in homes that are damaging to their health and dignity as councils fail to provide them with the help they need and are entitled to.

Every year some 2,500 disabled people wait for more than a year to get the vital funding that can help make their homes accessible.

The Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) is a means-tested grant for disabled people who need to adapt their home to give them freedom of movement around their accommodation.

After submitting Freedom of Information requests to all 360 councils with a responsibility for housing in January 2015, Leonard Cheshire received responses from 245 councils.

The report says that:

  • 62% of councils broke the law at least once last year by failing to fund adaptations within the 12 month deadline
  • 44% of councils had examples of disabled people waiting for more than 24 months for payments

Such failures to provide funding to disabled people mean that wheelchair users can wait for years before they are allocated a home they can move around easily.  The failure to find suitable adapted accommodation means that disabled people are denied the chance to live independently, and can be stuck in residential care for years.

Adaptations that disabled people need to live an independent life include widening doors to allow wheelchair access, installing ramps, handrails and lifts, and providing a downstairs bathroom.

Many disabled people suffer the indignity of having to be carried to a bathroom, have to wash themselves at a kitchen sink, or find that they cannot manoeuvre their electric wheelchairs around their homes and are stuck in one room for most of the day.

The charity is recommending that councils:

  • Ensure no disabled person waits longer than 18 months for essential adaptations to their home.
  • Increase their spending on DFGs to ensure that all eligible disabled people receive grants within the legal time limit. This will also reduce the pressure on social care budgets.
  • Prioritise disabled-friendly homes and adaptations when making Better CareFund plans
  • Ensure that all new homes are built to Lifetime Homes standards and 10% of new homes are built to full wheelchair accessible standards.

Disability discrimination partner Emma Satyamurti from Leigh Day said:

“This report is really shocking. Disabled people should be able to live a dignified life in suitable accommodation.

“I fully support the recommendations that Leonard Cheshire Disability is calling for and hope to see them implemented as soon as possible. They not only make financial sense, but would immeasurably improve the lives of many disabled people.”