Guest blog – No Place like Home

By the sink best

This week we have a guest blog from Ciaran Osborne, Policy and Research Manager, at Leonard Cheshire Disability

Feeling comfortable where we live is important to all of us.

Nobody wants to have a home they love turned into a prison because they can no longer get in the front door, or because they have to wash at the kitchen sink and use a commode in the living room because their only bathroom is upstairs.

But sadly, that’s exactly the position that too many of us are in. Today, at Leonard Cheshire Disability we have published a new report setting out the shocking scale of the housing crisis facing older and disabled people.

Our “No Place like Home” report reveals that up to 300,000 disabled people will spend Christmas trapped in exactly those circumstances.

Earlier this year, Catherine got in touch with us to share her story. Catherine lives in a terraced house with her husband and three children. 10 years ago she renovated the house doing a lot of the work herself. They have been very happy living there ever since.

But three years ago Catherine acquired Motor Neurone Disease and is getting worse every month. She can currently walk a few feet without assistance, but eventually she will need a wheelchair to move even that far.

Over the past year, Catherine’s disability has turned her home into a nightmare. She told us:

“I only have one bathroom, upstairs, which is at the top of a steep and narrow staircase, and I can’t install one downstairs because there just isn’t enough room. I can’t even have a commode as my downstairs is open plan with the front door opening directly into the street.

“That means I spend almost all my time alone in my bedroom, so I can be near the toilet. It’s lonely, depressing, and extremely frustrating.

“I’m terrified that I’ll be stuck living like this for the rest of my life. We’re desperately looking for a home we can move into – but I’m worried we won’t be able to afford anywhere – especially as I can’t do the renovations anymore. But because I own, I had to get support from my local MP to even get onto the council housing waiting list, and I have no idea whether I’m anywhere near the top.

“I’ve worked hard all my life. It just feels really unfair that I’m stuck now, with nowhere to go. It’s terrifying how quickly this has happened, and that I can’t do anything to save the home, and life, that my family and I have built together.”

It is deeply frustrating to think that Catherine and thousands of other disabled and older people will be stuck in completely unsuitable homes this Christmas. It is especially frustrating when there is something so easy that local and national Government could do about it.

In previous years, charities such as Age UK have backed the idea of Lifetime Homes – these are homes built so that stair-lifts and grab bars can be installed easily, doorways are wide enough to fit wheelchairs through, and there are no unnecessary steps or steep slopes to the front door.

For just £1,100, even a 3-bedroom home can be built to Lifetime Homes standard. Developers can definitely afford to do this and still remain profitable. But Government is refusing to require developers to build new homes so that they work for older and disabled people.

So far only Boris and Ken have had the backbone to insist that homes in their area are built to last a lifetime. We wish all local and national politicians were brave enough to do the same.

So we at Leonard Cheshire Disability are calling for:

  • National government to make Lifetime Homes the minimum standards for all new-builds by 2020;
  • Local government to create local policies for Lifetime Homes to be a standard requirement and for 10% of homes in large developments to be wheelchair accessible;
  • Every local authority to put in place a list of which homes are Lifetime Homes or fully wheelchair accessible
  • All new Garden Cities to be built to last a lifetime.

We don’t want any more people to be stuck living like Catherine. If you agree and want more homes suitable for older and disabled people, please sign our petition for better homes here.

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