Scottish Government urged to seize ‘once in a generation opportunity’ to tackle accessible housing crisis

Wheelchair home stockDisabled people’s organisation Inclusion Scotland has today called for the Scottish Government to seize the opportunity presented by their plan to build 50,000 new homes, by ensuring that they are built to be fully wheelchair accessible, or easily adapted to be so.

The group’s new report with Independent Living in Scotland into the housing needs of disabled people, called ‘Our Place: Our Space’, described evidence of the scale of the problem to be “overwhelming”.

According to the report, around 14% of households in Scotland include someone who uses a wheelchair or mobility aid. However, only 0.7% of Scottish local authority housing stock, and 1.5% of housing association property, is accessible for wheelchair users. And there is no definitive information about the number of accessible or adapted houses in the Scottish private sector.

Dr Sally Witcher, chief executive of Inclusion Scotland, said: “Being unable to buy or rent an accessible home literally imprisons disabled people - in their own homes, in hospital, or in residential care against their will. This leads to poor heath, intolerable stress for families and the need for additional social care support.

“The current failure to provide an adequate supply of wheelchair accessible homes in Scotland creates a ticking time bomb with significant cost implications for services, housing and support all across Scotland.

“If we are committed to making Scotland fairer for disabled people we need to address the chronic shortage of wheelchair accessible housing immediately.”

By documenting disabled people’s housing experiences, ‘Our Place: Our Space’ aims to expose the myth that current design and building standards and the provision of adaptations in Scotland are meeting the housing needs of disabled people.

Dr Witcher said: “Most disabled people live in homes that cannot be adapted. While the newer so-called ‘Barrier free’ homes offer choice for some, they fail to meet the access needs of many wheelchair users.”

Inclusion Scotland said the current situation is expected to get worse unless action is taken soon as the population ages and demand increases. In 20 years there will be over 250,000 more households in Scotland including someone aged over 65 years old, and of these just under half will include someone over 85 years.

75% of these households are currently living in homes which cannot be adapted for their expected needs as they age and certainly not if they become wheelchair users. Statistically around 10% of the over 65’s and 25% of the over 85s will use a wheelchair at least part of the time.

Dr Witcher added: “With the Scottish Government’s commitment of £3billion towards building 50,000 new affordable homes we need to see an explicit commitment to focussing a fair share of this investment on increasing the supply of wheelchair accessible housing.

“A 10% target for new homes is the bare minimum required to tackle the shortfall – and it needs to start now.”

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