Disabled people suffering in unsuitable housing

Inappropriate housing causing disabled people ‘physical and mental harm’

Tuesday 20th August 2019

Leading housing experts are warning a lack of adapted housing is causing disabled people “physical and mental harm”.

This follows the publication of a study that tracked the experiences of 28 disabled Scots looking for housing. Most received inappropriate housing offers, or none at all.

Researchers from the University of Stirling, Housing Options Scotland and Horizon Housing Association were told by one wheelchair user how they had to make eight transfers – between chair, wheelchair, stair-lift and toilet, and back again – to use the bathroom.

Professor Isobel Anderson, who led the research team, said: “Disabled people’s extended lived experience of inappropriate housing, while waiting for a more accessible home, clearly causes considerable physical and mental harm.

“The key findings highlighted a proactive approach from local housing providers, yet distance between their aspirations and the experiences of disabled people.

The team is arguing for disabled people and their families to have “equal housing opportunities”.

Professor Anderson added: “This academically rigorous report gives all stakeholders the opportunity and evidence to shape lettings policy and practice to optimise effectiveness in matching disabled people to suitable homes, as well as increasing our stock of accessible housing.”

Councils matching disabled people with homes are urged to consider wider issues including local support networks and the accessibility of the garden and surrounding area, as well as access and internal features.

Some disabled interviewees felt access to a garden should be taken into account by housing assessors, while others suggested the needs of the entire household should be considered – not just the main applicant.

Bill Scott is from the Disability Research into Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) programme that funded the study. He said: “Previous research has shown that inappropriate housing causes harm to physical and mental health and this research showed how the stress of the allocations processes and waiting times experienced by the participants could also be harmful to their wellbeing.” 

Isla Gray, interim managing director of the Horizon Housing Association, added: “The report provides substantial insight into the experiences of disabled housing applicants and practice improvements that can address the inequality of housing opportunities and outcomes that persist for too many disabled households.

“The findings will be useful for government, the Scottish Housing Regulator and to housing and service providers – as well as for health and social care providers working with disabled people.”

Moira Bayne, chief executive of Housing Options Scotland, said: “Serving over 600 disabled households in need each year, we see first-hand the impacts of effective allocations policy and practice, but also what happens where services have not been accessibly designed and are insufficiently flexible to deliver the individualised solutions often needed. 

“We warmly welcome this report as an important resource for Registered Social Landlords, local authorities and Scottish Government, who are working to increase housing supply for disabled people.”