Housing provision ‘leaving Scottish wheelchair users behind’

Over 17,200 wheelchair users in Scotland do not have a suitable home and this unmet need is set to increase by 80% by 2024, according to new research.

A major new report published by Horizon Housing Association and North Star Consulting and Research estimates that there are 87,340 wheelchair users in Scotland (3.6% of all households). Of these, one in four indoor wheelchair users say their home is not suitable for their needs.

Still minding the step? A new estimation of housing need among wheelchair users in Scotland’ also estimates that 17,226 wheelchair user households across Scotland are in significant housing need (19.1% of all wheelchair user households).

The report, which has been endorsed by CIH Scotland, also projects a sharp rise in the number of wheelchair users by 2024/25 based on current health trends. It highlights the diversity of circumstances of wheelchair users and makes recommendations for a three tier approach to addressing need, which it says should include the design and supply of new homes, adaptations and effective allocation of adapted rented housing.

Among its recommendations, the publication suggests how local authorities can better assess housing need among wheelchair users in their area, and urges the Scottish Government to set a national guideline target that 10% of new homes are built to wheelchair accessible standards.

The report’s nine recommendations are:

  1. The Scottish Government should set and monitor a national guideline target for 10% of new homes to be to wheelchair user standard.
  2. Local authorities should set and monitor targets for the provision of new and adapted homes to wheelchair user standard.
  3. Policies and guidance should require that Local Housing Strategies plan for wheelchair standard housing as an explicit element within mainstream housing planning; with specialist housing as an additional consideration.
  4. The Scottish Government should introduce a “wheelchair space standard” subsidy to its grant benchmarks.
  5. Strategic commissioners and investment planners in housing, health and social care, including Integrated Joint Boards, should apply the three tier approach to meeting needs.
  6. The Scottish Government should consider a national funding support mechanism to enable wheelchair user households, including current home owners, to buy suitable or adaptable homes.
  7. The Scottish Government should review guidance to local authorities on use of the Scheme of Assistance and extend the Housing Options approach.
  8. Clearer and nationally applied definitions should be developed for different levels of accessible homes, related to review and development of consistent and up-to-date design standards which apply across all tenures.
  9. The Scottish Government, local authorities, health bodies and housing providers should invest in addressing the data gaps.
  10. Horizon Housing Association managing director, Julia Fitzpatrick, said: “It is encouraging to see the progress many local authorities have made since our first report in 2012, but it is simply not far enough or fast enough to cope with an exponentially growing need. Horizon wants to see fully accessible and adaptable homes included in all new housing developments as a matter of course.

    “Improving access to support with adapting existing homes and in our approaches for enabling disabled people to find suitable homes in the rented sector are equally important. Disabled people have the right to be involved in community and social life, education or employment and a well-designed and manageable home is the cornerstone.”

    Amanda Britain, former chair and member of CIH Scotland’s Board, who contributed a foreword to the new research, said: “This is an important report, not only for the housing sector but equally for health and social care, where pressures and costs will increase if wheelchair users have to live in inappropriate housing. The human impact of failing to get this right is enormous.

    “The shortfall in suitable housing provision for wheelchair users and the huge growth in future demand identified by this report cannot be ignored. A concerted and coordinated effort is needed to ensure that its key recommendations are properly acknowledged and addressed.”

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