Study finds inappropriate housing provision causes emotional distress for disabled Scots

Housing minister Kevin Stewart responds following new findings that show a lack of suitable housing causes “considerable physical and mental harm” to disabled people in Scotland

  • New report finds that disabled home-seekers across three local authority areas in Scotland either received offers for inappropriate housing or no offers at all over the course of an 18-month-long study
  • Housing minister Kevin Stewart responds: “We want disabled people in Scotland to have choice, dignity and freedom to access suitable homes, built or adapted to enable them to participate as full and equal citizens.”
  • New report follows demands from the STUC in April that “urgent action” is needed from local authorities to address the shortage in specialist housing

HOUSING MINISTER Kevin Stewart has responded to a new report highlighting the distress caused to disabled home-seekers by Scotland’s lack of suitable housing by emphasising the need for local authorities and housing authorities to take advantage of grant subsidy flexibilities in the Affordable Housing Supply Programme.

Published this week, the report represents the culmination of an 18 month study by researchers from the University of Stirling, Housing Options Scotland and the Horizon Housing Association into the effectiveness of allocations and letting practices for accessible and adapted social housing in Scotland.

Out of 28 disabled home-seekers spread across three local authority areas, the majority were found to have either received offers for inappropriate housing, or no offers at all over the course of the study.

Professor Isobel Anderson, the leader of the research team, commented on the report’s findings: “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.”

“I have made it clear to local authorities and housing associations that grant subsidy flexibilities in the Affordable Housing Supply Programme should be seen as a catalyst to deliver more specialist housing where it is needed.” Housing minister Kevin Stewart

She added: “Disabled people and their families should have equal housing opportunities and the right to an accessible home in the community that ensures and protects their human rights. 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.”

The report based on the study offers a number of policy recommendations to the Scottish Government, as well as to Registered Social Landlords (RSLs), local authorities and the Scottish Housing Regulator regarding the design, adaptation and supply of specialist housing.

Responding to the report, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart told CommonSpace: “We want disabled people in Scotland to have choice, dignity and freedom to access suitable homes, built or adapted to enable them to participate as full and equal citizens.

“We have recently published new practical guidance for local authorities on meeting the needs of disabled people through their allocation polices and through the delivery of more wheelchair accessible housing

“We’re also working with health and social care partnerships, disability organisations and the housing sector to ensure those in need of adaptations to their home can access the right services.”

READ MORE: STUC demands 'urgent action' to end major shortage of accessible housing for disabled Scots

Stewart added: “I have made it clear to local authorities and housing associations that grant subsidy flexibilities in the Affordable Housing Supply Programme should be seen as a catalyst to deliver more specialist housing where it is needed.”

In Scotland, local authorities have statutory responsibility for planning for and meeting housing needs within their area. Additionally, all social landlords must develop and publish their allocation policies within the broader legal framework for social housing allocations and in line with equalities and human rights legislation.

Also commenting on the new report, Housing Options Scotland chief executive Moira Bayne 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 RSLs, local authorities and Scottish Government, who are working to increase housing supply for disabled people.”

This follow’s demands from the Scottish Trade Union Congress in April this year for “urgent action” from local authorities to tackle a shortage of accessible housing.

READ MORE: ‘It’s a basic human right’: Scottish Government criticised for 7 year housing adaptations funding freeze

Speaking at the STUC’s annual conference in Dundee after figures revealed that Scotland lags behind other parts of the UK in both the construction of new accessible housing and the provision of funds to adapt existing housing stock, Robert Mooney of the STUC’s Disabled Workers Committee said: "It is a disgrace that, for many disabled people, their right to independent living is not being met and one major reason for this is a lack of affordable, accessible housing.

“Some people have gone into hospital and are then stuck there because accessible accommodation can’t be found for them or their current home isn’t adjusted. 

"This chronic shortage, exacerbated by years of austerity and budget cuts, has to end. The STUC is committed to working alongside other organisations to ensure that the homes of our future are fit for everyone."

The Scottish Government’s Fairer Scotland for Disabled People plan, developed in consultation and engagement with disabled people in Scotland, aims to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by 2021. Amongst its targets is a commitment to ensuring that each local authority sets a realistic target for the delivery of wheelchair accessible housing, and report annually on their progress.  

The Scottish Government is also investing over £3.3 billion in affordable housing to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes over the lifetime of this Parliament – a 94 per cent increase on its previous five-year investment. Of these, 35,000 homes will be for social rent. According to the Scottish Government, most of these homes will be delivered by housing associations and councils and will be sufficiently flexible to meet people’s varying needs.

However, the Scottish Government faced criticism in February, following a freezing in funding for housing adaptions that would include homes for those with disabilities. According to the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), funding for housing adaptations has effectively been frozen for the past seven years. Despite the Scottish Government’s previous commitment of £826 million to increase the supply of affordable homes as part of the 2019/20 budget, the SFHA – while welcoming the new money –called for funding to continue “beyond the lifetime of this parliament” to meet current and future needs.

Picture courtesy of the Scottish Government

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