Opinions

Hidden Housing Crisis

Written by: Jacq Kelly, Policy and Parliamentary Officer (Scotland), Leonard Cheshire Disability

Published: 25/02/2015

Leonard Cheshire are asking for your support for a new petition that aims to make housing across Scotland more accessible.

There’s a quality of life that we should all be able to expect and, for those of us who experience it, we too often take it for granted. That might be easy access to your front door, the ability to leave the house or to see friends or a bathroom that you can get to easily when you’re bleary-eyed and still waking up first thing in the morning and want to  take a shower. That last one can be hard enough when you live in a house that is accessible and meets your needs.

That’s why we are petitioning the Scottish Parliament calling for a commitment to making sure that all new homes in Scotland are built to fully meet all the Lifetime Homes Standards, with at least 10 per cent of new homes built to full wheelchair accessibility standards. Because we hear too many stories about disabled people being unable to leave their homes because their doorways are too narrow to allow access for a wheelchair, or being forced to wash in the mornings in their kitchen sinks because their isn’t an accessible bathroom in the downstairs of their homes.

It isn’t just stories that we hear either. Our research bears out the reality that people are facing. Almost three quarters (71%) of people in Scotland report that they live in a home without an accessible front door and almost 20,000 people with disabilities waiting for homes are on waiting lists.

Present figures show that 500,000 people across the UK become disabled every year. That means homes need to be adaptable, so that in the future they can add grab rails and wet rooms, stairlifts or hoists. But many existing homes can’t be adapted at all, and even with newly built homes, most can’t be adapted cheaply. Critically, in Scotland at the current rate of increase, it would take 62 years for there to be enough wheelchair accessible social housing in Scotland to meet demand.

Apart from the fact that ensuring disabled people have the quality of life that they deserve, it makes financial sense to design disabled-friendly homes. They are, by design, cheaper and easier to adapt than other homes: installing a stair lift in a Lifetime Home can cost as little as £2,500, but if the wall by the stairs is not strong enough, the cost of replacing or reinforcing the wall could be five or ten times that. If a bathroom is big enough for a wheelchair to fit into by design, the only cost to adapt the home may be around £300 to install grab bars. Whereas if the doorway needs to be widened and the wall needs to be strengthened, costs could easily be 30 times higher.

We meet people who are living in homes that cannot be adapted because the money simply is not there. Designing them to disabled-friendly standards in the first place could have meant them being able to enjoy their homes rather than merely existing in them.

We need your help to persuade the Scottish Government to make accessible homes for everyone a priority. Sign our petition before it closes on Monday 2 March 2015: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/GettingInvolved/Petitions/hiddenhousingcrisis

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Leonard Cheshire Disability

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