Last time I blogged about housing, it was a rather lengthy post but still a mere snippet of our families 7-year ordeal working tirelessly with Bolton Council to source a property fit for both; a full-time wheelchair user AND young family. This blog allowed me to voice my heartbreak of how being in such an unsuitable property for my needs had a knock on effect on my ability to parent, which as a Mother had overshadowed the indignity that I couldn’t even access the toilet. Wearing my heart on my sleeve and having nothing to lose in what felt like an unrectifiable situation, due to the sheer lack of accessible properties within social housing period, was met not just with uproar and brought readers without disabilities to tears but also brought with it many contacts of families like mine in near-identical situations. Not being able to tuck your own kids in at night, access the toilet or get out the house in the event of a fire was my reality for near a decade was one thing but there are people out there unable to shower, have their bed in the living room and toilet in a commode next to it, and young people faced with sudden chronic illnesses/elderly or young people facing life after life-changing injuries that are being forced into nursing homes because they simply wouldn’t be safe or be able to have their daily care needs to be met in their existing home. That in itself is every disabled person’s worst nightmare brought to life and a damning state of affairs that this is happening to people in Britain because homes are not built with disability or ageing in mind.
We finally moved into our forever home, a 3-bed accessible bungalow in May this year. A previously adapted property that had slipped through the net upon the death of its occupier and given to non-disabled tenants, who ripped out all its features. If it wasn’t for a council worker recognising the address when it came back onto the housing list and remember it being a fully wheelchair accessible property, we could have remained on the Disability Housing Register another 10 years. That’s how rare these types of properties are. It took a year of careful planning and orchestrating, re-installing its previous features, adding in additional ones that’d meet our individual needs thanks to the Disability Facilities Grant and I still cannot believe we made it in the end.
Our journey to an accessible home led to the amazing opportunity of partnering with the London based housing association known as Habinteg – Championing inclusion by providing and promoting accessible homes, on their Habinteg Insight Advisory Group. Although very new, the purpose encompasses using its members’ journeys in housing as something to learn from and has given us a voice within parliament to be a part of real change when it comes to implementing more accessible homes across the country.
Today, in fact, was the grand release of the Habinteg Insight Report – a forecast for accessible homes and I thought I’d touch on some of the rather shocking statistics that the charity have done extensive research to reveal to the government, housing developers, local authorities and us – the people who need the independence and security of an accessible home.
It’s clear from the report that the majority focused on implementing more accessible properties in all sectors is in and around London, but Habinteg does not detour from the fact we should be seeing more accessible and adaptable properties on a national level. With an estimated figure of disabled people in the UK being 13.9 million, 1.2m of which are wheelchair users, according to the English Housing Survey highlighted in the report only 7% of homes in the entirety of England meet the accessibility criteria currently, a pitiful revelation to an ever-ageing population and growing need for suitably adaptable or wheelchair friendly homes. Another jaw-dropping statistic revealed was that less than a third of the 322 local housing plans the charity studied set a specific requirement for a proportion of new homes to meet ANY form of accessible standards! With the many damning figures identified throughout the 28 page forecast, it’s no wonder families like mine wait years upon years to source suitable properties.
The flip side of the report had me relieved to witness Habinteg, as always, leading the fight beyond their financial constraints by banding together their powerful connections to reinforce better, higher standards for accessibility in new homes across London, advising local authorities on how to access their own guides to accessible and adaptable home design and reinforcing London’s ambition of to deliver 20% of new homes meeting accessible and adaptable standards by 2030. Honourably the charity is calling on the Government to set this baseline that was set in motion in 2004 to a national level so that accessible homes are not restricted by areas of popularity.
Want to aid in the fight #ForAccessibleHomes? You can find methods to tackle the on-going crisis at the bottom of the report or on Habinteg’s website.