When the lack of disabled-friendly homes means you have to live in a shell
22 April 2015
by Ciaran Osborne
June had a life that many of us would recognise. She worked as an art teacher, had built a life with her husband and son, and had been lucky enough to live in her own home for ten years.
And just like one in six of us, June is disabled. As she got older her condition worsened, and she found walking and moving around increasingly difficult.
Over time, June adapted to her condition — she began using a wheelchair to get around outside, and sticks to get around inside.
But one thing was clear: her home wasn’t working.
June was at risk of falling down the stairs every time she tried to go up to her bedroom, and even had trouble getting in and out of the front door. To make life liveable again, June and her family decided they would have to move house.
But that is where the problems really began. There were virtually no disabled-friendly homes available to buy or rent — and those that were available were extremely expensive. Most were over £100,000 more than June’s budget.
After searching for 18 months, June and her family finally found a home they could afford — but the problems did not end there:
‘The only bungalow we could afford was a wreck. No hot water in the kitchen, no kitchen cupboards, nothing. Just bare brick with a sink.’
In order to get some basic work done, such as installing a wet room so she could wash safely, June applied to the council for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG). But she was turned down flat, all because they had managed to keep hold of a small amount of savings, worth only £3,000.
That she needed those savings to make repairs to the bungalow was not even considered.
So June is stuck. Forced to live in the only disabled-friendly home she could afford, with all of her savings spent on making that home halfway liveable – and the council refusing to provide any help. That’s despite her home being threatening to her health.
‘When we did the bathroom we couldn't afford to dig up the floor so the shower had to be built up on a step with the pipes underneath. I can just manage to get up the step but it's painful, and I sometimes trip. I worry about seriously injuring myself every day — and things will only get worse over time.’
Things needs to change, now.
To deal with emergency situations like June’s, councils must ensure there is enough funding for DFGs to make the adaptations that disabled people need.
And in the longer term, councils should ensure that all new homes are built to Lifetime Homes Standards, and 10% are fully wheelchair accessible — so that people like June aren’t forced to move into the only disabled-friendly homes that are available.
Find out how many people in your area are in similar situations to Jane's. Visit cantmove.co.uk and enter your postcode.
Ciaran Osborne is Policy and Research Manager at Leonard Cheshire Disability.