On 14 December, 2016 the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a formal inquiry on housing for disabled people. We fist-pumped the air.
I think the lack of accessible housing and the shortfall of adaptations funding is one of the most ignored issues faced by disabled people today. 1.8 million people live in houses that do not meet their needs (London School of Economics), and Disability Facilities Grant funding isn’t enough to adapt the number of disabled people’s houses that need adapting. So what, exactly, are these 1.8 million people supposed to do? If you can’t move, and you can’t adapt, then what?
Decades of studies have talked about the scale of the problem and found links between inadequate housing and preventable injuries, loss of opportunities, and increased social care need. People are getting hurt, missing out, and needing more day to day support. Building standards have gradually improved and the Disabled Facilities Grant funding has increased, but too few accessible properties have been built and the funding isn’t nearly enough: we still have an accessible housing crisis.
Good design saves money and makes it easier for disabled people to live their lives their way. If you build a house without a step to the front door, you will never need to pay for a ramp. If you install a level access shower where the bath was, you enable someone to wash themselves. For some people, it really can be that simple.
We asked you what we should be saying to the EHRC, and these are the recommendations you helped us come up with:
– The principle of universal design to be embedded in an enforceable manner in all planning and building policies; not to be thought of as an add-on or “nice to have”.
– Every new housing estate must have a proportion properties that are fully accessible/adaptable that meets the housing needs of the local community now and in the foreseeable future.
– DCLG fund study to determine the need for accessible housing at a local level.
– Local authorities to be given more powers to enforce including access at planning stage.
– Local residents with disabilities to be regularly consulted by planning boards.
– Estate agents to be encouraged to have a rating system for access on all properties and to advertise as such.
– Delays in DFG processes to be monitored and minimised.
– A sufficient amount of funding to be made available to adapt the homes of disabled people through the Disabled Facilities Grant.
– Security, ventilation, and heating recommendations must consider disabled people
– A lawyer to explore whether the lack of protection offered by the state in some cases breaches the Human Rights Act as degrading treatment.
We also asked you if we could share your housing stories with the EHRC, and 4 of you came forward. You know who you are – thank you! Your stories will show the EHRC what it’s really like to try to find an accessible house and to get the adaptations you need; what’s important to you and why; and how some problems can be solved. Keep campaigning; you’re amazing!
We’re looking forward to reading the full EHRC Inquiry report, and hopefully it’ll be a foundation for change.
By Fleur Perry